The Eurasian Coalition On Male Health (ECOM) has conducted a survey, which revealed that internalized homophobia may increase the risk of undetected HIV infection within the MSM population. The survey focused on determining the internalized homophobia and its impact on health and lives of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in 13 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) .
Internalized homophobia means negative feelings and attitudes, which an individual has in respect of himself/herself due to his/her sexual orientation. It can be guilt, embarrassment, rejection of own homosexuality or even overt aggression against other homosexuals or yourself.
The research was conducted in 13 countries, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Estonia. Representatives of the MSM (men who have sex with men) group were asked to complete an online questionnaire on Hornet dating app, dating site BlueSystem.org and other partner websites. In total, around 5 000 people took part in the survey.
In order to identify the level of self-acceptance, respondents were asked to assess the level of personal consent with the below-mentioned statements:
- I feel comfortable in gay bars;
- I easily discuss my homosexuality;
- If I could change my sexual orientation, I wouldn’t do that, etc.
If a respondent completely agreed with a statement, he ranked 7 points, if he completely disagreed – 1 point.
According to the survey results, Lithuanian respondents in average scored 5.4, in comparison to Belarusians’ average of 5.3 points and Azerbaijanis responding scoring lowest with 4.7 points.
The authors of the survey note that people with highest internalized homophobia are likely to refuse to fill in the questionnaire altogether, which in turn may influence the overall result.
Nevertheless, the collected data suggests a correlation between the HIV testing and the level of self-acceptance. The higher the level of self-acceptance, the more often respondents would test for HIV or other STDs. And vice versa, respondents with a high level of internalized homophobia have never been tested for HIV or other STDs.
*This article is produced and published with the support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, under the project “Sharing Expertise and Fostering LGBT Human Rights in Belarus”.