Role of Social Networks on Sexual and Health Seeking Behaviors among Menwho Have Sexwith Men (Msms)in Nairobi, Kenya.
In Kenya Men who have sex with other Men (MSMs) remain at a higher risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV than the general population. Access to health services among MSMs is still low despite increased efforts in fighting for their rights.These conditions have generally been attributed to stigma, discrimination and marginalization. However, little is known regarding MSMs’ behaviors and related underlying factors that continue to put them at the high riskof sexual behaviours and poor health seeking behaviours. This study aimed at i) exploring the existence of social networks ii) describing the association between social networks and sexual behaviors iii) establishing how social networks influence access to, and utilizing of health services among MSMs in Nairobi.The study was a quantitative descriptive survey in which65MSMswere recruited using convenience sampling at 20 bars and clubs in Nairobi. Experienced MSM peer educators,trained as research assistants were involved in recruiting, interviewing and filling the questionnaires. Quantitative analysis was done using MS Excel package.Key Findings from the studysuggest that majority of MSMsin Nairobi belong to social networkscharacterized by socio-demographic factors such as age, sexual partnership, tribe and schooling. It was clear that social networks can negatively influence certain sexual behaviors such as condom use, group sex and gender based violence. On the other hand, it appeared that social networks have positive influence onhealth seeking behaviors including what health services to access, when, where and how frequent. The study concludes that social networks have a key role in the overall wellbeing and health of MSMs. It recommends the need for information and awareness among MSMsto be able to assess the benefitsand disadvantages of specific social networks at both individual and group level thus determine whether to belong to certain social networks or not.
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