2018: Analyzing Yaariyan – an internet-based e-safe space facilitating access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services among MSM and transgender youth in Mumbai, IndiaHumsafar Trust
Youth bear a greater burden of HIV with a high proportion of new infections diagnosed among them. MSM and transgender youth are thus at a higher risk and most-at-risk population. In India, unfavorable socio-legal environments add to the challenges of being LGBTQ and increase vulnerabilities of MSM and transgender youth to HIV/STIs by limiting access to healthcare and information. Existing anti-sodomy law section 377 is used to criminalize LGBTQ, majorly acts as a deterrent for LGBTQ to “come out” and many lead dual lives that place them at an added risk of extortion and blackmail, and make them hard to reach.
Further, internet, social media, and location-based dating applications for LGBTQ populations are increasingly gaining popularity among MSM and transgender youth populations. This poses challenges in the sense that internet-using MSM and transgender youth may not frequent physical cruising sites that are reached by existing HIV interventions. Internet, social media, and location-based dating apps provide anonymity and may act as a barrier for HIV outreach. In such scenarios, online outreach models play an important role in ensuring that internet-using MSM and transgender youth are within the purview of HIV interventions and are adequately reached.
As an internet-based peer support group, Yaariyan is an online intervention for young internet-using MSM and transgender youth and funding is needed to support a systematic approach to codifying and documenting our innovative online outreach model. While HIV/AIDS and STIs have been a focus of Yaariyan’s messaging, the approach adopted by the space is also holistic as it provides MSM and transgender youth with a space to address issues pertaining to gender-expression, sexuality, legal and human rights that impact their life and influence health-seeking behaviors.
It is crucial to understand Yaariyan as an internet-based peer support model to know how this platform has served to improve HIV prevention and care and support by organizing testing camps and mobilizing youth for HIV awareness through youth-centric campaigns and workshops. The research can help the support group identify areas of strengthening and improvement as well as enable to come up with an innovative intervention in other regions within and outside India for improved outreach to young LGBTQ, particularly MSM and transgender youth and essentially contribute toward creating a hybrid intervention model that informs regular Indian HIV interventions. Yaariyan is an innovative peer-led intervention model with the potential to be adapted to other local scenarios for improved internet outreach. This research will thus strengthen not just Yaariyan as a peer led online intervention but also allow the model to be scaled and implemented in other similar scenarios.
While there is research on social media and health, there is a dearth of research on interactive social media and HIV/AIDS. It would be first of its’ kind research pertaining to interactive social media. This research funded by The International AIDS Society and implemented by The Humsafar Trust will contribute to the body of knowledge on easily accessible, confidential and cost-effective supportive programs for MSM and transgender youth.
Objective of the Study
- To conceptualize how Yaariyan as an online intervention impacts differentiated care – specifically the early steps of the HIV care cascade and builds a foundation to support testing, linkage to care, by addressing structural, social, individual, stigma barriers.
- To use an implementation science framework to produce the strongest evidence base possible by identifying key components of the intervention to inform generalizability of our model to other settings and may enable Yaariyan like pilot intervention and research in different parts of India and potentially in Africa and South-east Asia with MSM and transgender youth
- To contribute to the body of knowledge by using the social media engagement theory in the field of HIV prevention. It would be interesting to see how brand `Yaariyan engages youth on social media for a desirable behavior change.
Study duration: Six months
Current Status: On going