Photo Collage for Trinidad Pilot Project
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO — New research results point to a close relationship between money and concurrent sexual relationships. PSI/Caribbean, with the help of OPTIONS Consultancy, implemented a study to look at the link between sexual relationships, their financial benefits, and risks for HIV. Initially the study set out to understand transactional cross-generational relationships, which were assumed to present considerable risk to the target group. It was found, however, that women expect financial gain from all relationships: sex and money are inextricable. The study therefore, focused on understanding how patterns of concurrent relationships are managed and maintained, and how common condom use is within each of the relationship patterns identified.
Participants in the PEER (participatory ethnographic evaluation and research) study were young women aged 16 to 24 in two communities on the island of Trinidad. Eleven women from these communities served as peer interviewers, speaking with three of their peers three times each in an informal and conversational manner.
In both communities, two main partner types were identified: the personal, or live-in or long-term partner, and outside men, who are perceived as easily changeable. While women are not stigmatized for having more than one partner, they are scrutinized by their peers for having multiple partners and not maintaining ‘the look’. Maintaining ‘the look’ is the driving force behind concurrency: the commoditisation of sex is a cycle in which consumption fuels the need for concurrency, and concurrency is essential for status, which is based on having the right clothes, shoes, hair, nails and jewelry (or bling).
Based on results of research, the program team selected and trained five peer educators who themselves determined which BCC goals were realistic for their communities. Possible goals were: consistent condom use with outside men but not with personals; partner reduction; and the introduction of condom use with all partners by using new varieties that promote the pleasure. Since they are personally invested in the strategy, the educators are enthusiastic about working to change the behaviour of their peers.
In addition, a media campaign with two components has been proposed to the National AIDS Coordinating Committee, (NACC): one that focuses on the issues that affect the female target audience and a second that appeals to the male psyche and ego. The Protect Your Position campaign (the NACC campaign for the past four years has been “What’s Your Position?”) aims to popularise condom use by positioning it as a way of ensuring that one’s social position, rank and image among their peer group, community and sexual partners can be enhanced, secured and “protected” by using a condom.
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Health Areas: Reproductive Health