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MSM, travesties, transsexual promoters in sexual health, STD and HIV/AIDS in Cuba
Presented by Mayra Rodríguez, Cuba.
I. Arrue, M. Rodríguez, A.M. Cano, E. de Dios
CENESEX, National Center for Health Education, La Habana, Cuba
Issues: CENESEX has been working in Cuba with gender diversity issues since the 1970s and has lead important efforts to gain respect for sexual minorities. In the year 2000, a group of MSM asked for support for an HIV/AIDS prevention project to work with men involved in high risk practices. The prevention work started with weekly meetings among MSM that resulted in the project “HIV/AIDS prevention from the sexual diversity perspective” directed to MSM, including transgendered and transsexual people.
Description: Giving the increased incidence of HIV in Cuba, a training project was created to form sexual health promoters from within the MSM community, including travesties and transsexuals with the knowledge and abilities to create effective strategies to address their peers’ needs on STDs/HIV/AIDS prevention.
Lessons learned: Having created a special space in CENESEX (Habana) and other provinces and municipalities where travesties, transsexuals and MSM can join and exchange their experiences, allowed them to create a group of sexual minority promoters that includes three full time transgendered staff people working at CENESEX. Some project’s accomplishments are growing awareness of this group on the importance of preventing STDs/HIV/AIDS. In the cases of male sex-workers some have stopped engaging in commercial sex-work; voluntarily continuing their studies or jobs; the group has become more constructive and committed to the work they are carrying out and there has been a reduction of violence in their interpersonal communications. One of the most important outcomes is that some decision makers have been sensitized on issues of sexual diversity.
Next steps: There is still huge intolerance to sexual minorities, especially to travesties and transsexual individuals. This project needs continuity since it is a first step to incorporate sexually diverse people in a society where there is still a lack of knowledge and understanding on these issues.