Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey (CARIMIS) is a first for the region
A groundbreaking anonymous online study of the lives of men who have sex with men (MSM) in the English, French, Spanish and Dutch-speaking Caribbean is underway now. CARIMIS, the Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey (available at www.carimis.org) aims to learn more about this group while for the first time testing the potential of the internet to conduct research with key populations in the region. The initiative is led by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Caribbean Regional Support Team (RST) and involves several individuals, non-governmental organisations and partner agencies throughout the region.
UNAIDS Caribbean RST Director, Dr. Ernest Massiah, explained that the approach presents exciting possibilities for responding more meaningfully to the realities of MSM.
“Almost everybody’s online,” he said. “That’s where people are and that’s where the survey needs to be. It’s the most modern, effective way to connect with communities to find out more about their experiences and their needs.”
Article 29 of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS notes that many national HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations that evidence shows are at higher risk. In June governments committed to identifying the specific populations that are key to their epidemic and response, “based on the epidemiological and national context”. CARIMIS will contribute to this goal by offering new insight into the realities of Caribbean MSM communities at country-level, including respondents’ behavioural risks and their access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.
Participants in pilot tests done in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago revealed that they responded to questions about their sexual behaviour during the survey that they would not answer in face to face interviews. Importantly, the approach will reach across boundaries of class, race, socio-economic status and professed sexual identity as anyone with 15 minutes of internet access can participate anonymously.
“Studies among MSM have been conducted in the larger Caribbean countries using traditional sampling methods. While these methods have been useful they have always excluded sub-groups within the MSM community who cannot be reached through public venues or network systems. The internet holds the potential to reach a wider spectrum of MSM and could in the future be used to connect with other hard-to-reach groups,” explained Research Associate, Sylette Henry-Buckmire.
In the Caribbean HIV prevalence among MSM is estimated to range from 0.71 percent in Cuba to 32 percent in Jamaica. The average adult HIV prevalence for the region as a whole is one percent.
The survey is available on www.carimis.org It is targeted toward people who are 18 years or older, were born male and either are attracted to men, have sex with men or think they might do so in the future. Eligible participants must provide informed consent online before completing the survey. No information will be collected that would identify respondents. The website includes links to local referral services for those who require emotional or medical support. CARIMIS has been approved by the Ethics Committee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The website and its supporting technology underwent a rigorous certification and accreditation process to assure security.