Photo credit: Karun Soni
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Support Group for South Asian Men Launches to Highlight Importance in HIV Testing

An online campaign and offline support group for South Asian men who have sex with men is launching to help raise awareness for issues specific to their own experiences.

Sholay Love has been launched by NAZ, a charity delivering culturally-specific sexual health services to Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in London. The multi-platform campaign will help connect members of the community together, as well as help members become aware of the importance in HIV testing and sexual health. It’s reported that South Asian MSM are less likely to access sexual health screenings than other BAME MSM, whilst they’re also less likely to openly discuss HIV and sexual health with their partners.

South Asian MSM are one of the most overlooked groups when it comes to HIV prevention, which is
reflected in NAZ seeing a year-on-year increase in South Asian MSM looking for HIV support.

Related: 92 percent of adults admit to never having formally received same-sex education at school.

Aaron Chady, sexual health coordinator for South Asian MSM at NAZ and project lead for Sholay Love:

“From a lack of representation in sexual health campaigns to the cultural stigma attached to homosexuality, South Asian MSM are far behind in their sexual health literacy and have been, to my experience, reluctant to engage about their sexual health in the more usual outreach settings. Too often, I see South Asian MSM when things have gone wrong. We are being failed by prevention messages.

There is not one individual issue affecting the sexual health of South Asian MSM. It’s a convergence of complex cultural and societal issues, including the myriad reasons why some South Asian men might not be out and open.

Sholay Love is an opportunity to connect, converse and learn; and a private space that allows us to understand our sexual health with the cultural context and sensitivity required to combat shame, bust myths and explore our identities.

“We want the South Asian community, my community, to know they are not alone. This programme is designed for you.”

The artwork for the Sholay Love campaign has been created by Karun Soni, a London-based British Asian artist whose art agitates for change on issues such as sexism, homophobia, racism, domestic violence and mental health in the South East Asian community:

“My art challenges particular views in India on issues such as women’s rights, domestic violence, and the caste system, and the purpose of my art is to challenge views that are immoral and unjust but that survive today in our culture. I am incredibly excited about Sholay Love because it is designed especially for us, and so the artwork calls upon an image of ourselves we may have in our heads and hearts but may have trouble displaying out in the open.”

Sholay Love is a twelve-month project funded by the Public Health England Innovation Fund and delivered in partnership with Yorkshire MESMAC and Barts Health NHS Trust. The programme will be delivered in London, Leeds, and Bradford.

Interested South Asian MSM (trans and non-binary people welcome) should register their interest via the details provided here: http://naz.org.uk/sholaylove

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