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Table 2 Examples of goals, successes and challenges in engaging with broader communities for studies involving MSM communities

From: Public/community engagement in health research with men who have sex with men in sub-Saharan Africa: challenges and opportunities

Examples of goals of engagement Successes and suggestions Examples of issues and challenges
Research
• Researchers better understand the social context of the research and have the potential to hear about and respond to issues before they become serious problems • In communications about research, one meeting participant described it as helpful to explain their interest in health research broadly – not just for example among MSM • Communications aimed at explaining research or support for MSM can be understood, interpreted or otherwise shared in the broader community as promotion of homosexuality
Public health
• Increased awareness in local communities that MSM exist and that some have serious health and broader vulnerabilities • Several meeting participants discussed the value of focusing CE discussions on behaviour (for instance anal sex) regardless of sexuality to minimise ‘othering’, or the perception that that health concerns do not apply to heterosexuals • Tendency especially in public meetings for simplification of issues, or issues being sensationalised; e.g.
– there can be a conflation of identity with risk practice
– risk information can be translated or interpreted as MSM communities being ‘dangerous’ to the broader community as opposed to vulnerable to some health problems
Human rights/social justice
• Changed attitudes towards MSM in communities where research is being conducted • The general community involves many overlapping sub-communities based on, for example, business interests, gender and religion; workshop participants described the importance of regular and often informal interactions with as many communities as possible • Language and otherness – ‘they’ falsely distinguishes MSM from the broader or ‘general’ community
  1. CE, Community engagement; MSM, Men who have sex with men.