Cuba: Drag Queens and Volunteers Promote Safe Sex
December 29, 2010
The "Canto a la Vida" (Song to Life) gala at the Fausto Theater in Havana was one of several local events marking World AIDS Day recently. The event, which featured the drag queen Margot Parapar, was organized by Cuba's National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and other cultural and health organizations.
CENESEX and the National Center for Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV/AIDS (CNPSIDA) conduct prevention and awareness programs through voluntary health promoters like Parapar. Parapar's stage shows include messages on sexual health infused with large doses of humor. On stage, in front of a rainbow flag as a backdrop, she confidently tells the audience, "I know everything: I am a protected oracle."
Cuba has approximately 13,000 people living with HIV, for a prevalence of 0.1 percent, the lowest in the Caribbean region. However, men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by the disease, making up 72 percent of all diagnosed cases, said Rosaida Ochoa of CNPSIDA.
CNPSIDA has trained 1,700 MSM health volunteers, and CENESEX's program for MSM and transgender persons (MSM-Trans) has more than 400. These volunteers are a "key factor" for conducting prevention outreach among peers as well as to wider population groups, said Malú Cano Valladares, founder and coordinator of MSM-Trans.
"They take their health messages to their usual meeting places, as well as to schools, communities, and hospitals," said Valladares.
According to MSM-Trans member Luis Rondón, "developing closer relationships of trust" and expanding "the social influence exerted by the volunteers" have improved Cuba's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.
Inter Press Service
12.02.2010: Dalia Acosta
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