I won’t lie, I did not know what to expect when I joined the campaign and let me just say I learnt a lot from this campaign especially when it comes to MSM. One of the lessons that stood out for me was how different MSM behaviour is in each province, Mpumalanga MSM behave differently to Durban which meant tailoring conversations to suit each province. During the campaign we were hosting PrEP Connexion talks where myself and Vee ka Nkosi would share our experiences of being on PrEP, and each time we would get different perspectives and opinions from the people in attendance.
Men who have sex with other men are stigmatised in their communities because people want to box them in, however it was interesting to see in Mpumalanga how open MSM culture is and how supportive some communities are. The same can be said for Ennerdale in KZN where we got to meet over 30 MSM who all came to get on PrEP, the conversation was stimulating because we also had older men in the crowd who brought a different perspective. We also visited KwaMashu Taxi rank where we mobilised the crowd and got to speak to people and the common theme from the conversations was how people did not use condoms and how they were aware of PrEP but they were scared of getting tested. MSM are scared to get tested because of the fear of being stigmatised when visiting a clinic, however that cannot be said for the Pop Inn clinics as they create a safe space for MSM and Trans individuals.
Another key take away from the campaign was the importance of talking about one’s experience being on PrEP. During the PrEP connexion talks, some of the questions that people had related to things they had heard from someone stigmatising the use of PrEP or sharing a myth. When people see others and hear of their experiences, it helps alleviate some of the fears that they may have. Destigmatising the use of PrEP is important and openly talking about it will help in this instance.
My last lesson from the campaign was the importance of being open and honest with your counsellor and nurse so that you can receive the best service. Keeping information on your sexual history from your nurse only harms you because if the nurse knows everything, then they will be able to better advise you. The nurses I met during the campaign were so great in that they made you comfortable during your session and made sure you knew that it was a safe space for you.