This Is Who We Are
Building Community for HIV Prevention with Young Gay and Bisexual Men in Beirut, Lebanon
Published in: Culture, Health & Sexuality [Epub September 2017]. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2017.1371334
Young gay men in Beirut are at significantly elevated risk of HIV infection compared with the general Lebanese population. Despite nascent HIV prevention efforts in the region, there is a need for effective community-level HIV prevention interventions tailored for young gay men. This qualitative study examined internal dynamics within Beirut's gay community as a basis for developing community-level interventions. Peer ethnographers were trained to collect field notes on conversations between young gay men in public spaces in Beirut, and conducted follow-up focus groups with young gay men. Analyses revealed three major themes: (1) the need for safe spaces in which to socialise, (2) the importance of being able to locate and connect with other young gay men, and (3) ambivalence regarding a gay community that was supportive in some ways but also fragmented and often judgemental. Study findings also confirm the existence of external threats to community such as stigma, cultural and familial norms regarding heterosexuality and criminalisation of refugee status. Understanding such community dynamics and the environmental context is central to designing effective community-based HIV prevention programmes.