Monday, April 7, 2014

Indiana University to expand public health partnership aimed at promoting sexual health research, education, and training activities in India

Reducing the transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STI), along with the broader promotion of sexual health and well-being, remain global public health priorities.

In India, a country of 1.24 billion people, of whom nearly 2.5 million are currently living with HIV, the need is even more urgent for public health interventions that are evidence-based, culturally congruent, and high impact in terms of their ability to promote sexual health. In India, sexual risk behavior remains the main mode of HIV transmission and men who have sex with men (MSM) are characterized by disproportionately high rates of HIV prevalence (ranging between 7% and 24%). Relatively high rates of bisexual behavior have also been found among Indian men. Traditional gender roles and segregation, cultural expectations of marriage, and stigma surrounding same-sex behavior may influence sexual norms and behaviors. Men who have sex with both men and women (MSMW), who may or may not self-identify as a “bisexual,” face unique psychosocial challenges but they remain understudied and underserved. Researchers have not explored how individual, social and community level factors associated with Indian bisexual men’s sexual risk behaviors with both male and female partners may be made “safer” using public health interventions.

“Based on our previous research with bisexual men in the United States, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to explore sexual health among bisexual men in India – and this has been the perfect starting point for what we intend will be a much broader agenda of public health research and action between our team at Indiana University and our academic and community partners in India,” said Dr. Brian Dodge, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science and associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

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