The green shoots of a novel training programme: progress and identified key actions to providing services to MSM at Kenyan health facilities

van der Elst EM, Kombo B, Gichuru E, Omar A, Musyoki H, Graham SM, Smith AD, Sanders EJ, Operario D
J Int AIDS Soc. 2015;18

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INTRODUCTION: Although men who have sex with men (MSM) in sub-Saharan Africa are at high risk for HIV acquisition, access to and quality of health and HIV services within this population are negatively affected by stigma and capacity within the health sector. A recently developed online MSM training programme (www.marps-africa.org) was shown to contribute to reductions in MSM prejudice among healthcare providers (HCPs) in coastal Kenya. In this study, we used qualitative methods to explore the provision of MSM healthcare services two years post-training in coastal Kenya. METHODS: From February to July 2014, we held 10 focus group discussions (FGD) with 63 participants, including HCP from 25 facilities, county AIDS coordinators and MSM from local support groups. Participants discussed availability, acceptability and accessibility of HIV healthcare for MSM. HCP also discussed changes in their health service practices after completing the training. FGD were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using Ritchie and Spencer's "framework approach" for qualitative data. RESULTS: HCPs described continued improvements in their ability to provide service in a non-stigmatizing way to MSM patients since completing the training programme and expressed comfort engaging MSM patients in care. Four additional recommendations for improving MSM healthcare services were identified: 1) expanding the reach of MSM sensitivity training across the medical education continuum; 2) establishing guidelines to manage sexually transmitted anal infections; 3) promoting legal and policy reforms to support integration of MSM-appropriate services into healthcare; and 4) including MSM information in national reporting tools for HIV services. CONCLUSIONS: Positive impacts of this sensitivity and skills training programme were reflected in HCP attitudes two years post-intervention. Scaling-up of efforts will rely on continued policies to include MSM in healthcare programmes to reduce stigma in health settings and guidelines for MSM STI service delivery.