As part of the Global Health Study Abroad Program I will be preparing a research focused on minority populations in Mysore, India. MSM – Men Who Have Sex With Men and transgender- have been in the shadows of society for many years, as a whole have possibly elevated the risk of HIV, and have been hiding for many years among in different populations around the world. Social Networks’ “Influence on Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM), transgender and HIV Risk” in Mysore, India is a study that will be completed with the intention of giving MSM and transgender the opportunity to inform the public about what type of social networks are available in this region. Not only will it inform people about the types of social networks that help minority populations, but also, through the research, identify if these networks are helping the HIV community.
India is not the only country where the minority population suffers from not been accepted because of who they decide to be. All around the world MSM encounter obstacle after obstacle to feel safe and supported. Even though the United States is described as a free country, it is also a place where people face difficulties finding help and safety regarding being open about what they believe. As in India, social networks in a free country can sometimes be difficult to be fund, especially when it comes to family support. “From 2005 to 2009, HIV diagnoses increased 17 % among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the U.S., cementing their status as the only risk group in the U.S. with increasing HIV incidence” (Prejean J, et al, 2011). The research showed that the increase of HIV among MSM was related to lack of support from families, friends and the community. “Researchers have shown that social isolation, loneliness, and lack of social support are a significant risk factor for sexual risk-taking among MSM” (Diaz, R. M., Ayala, G., & Bein, E., 2004). In comparing US and India research, an assumption can be made by saying that possibly most problems that come attached to HIV risk are related to lack of support of MSM social networks. It is also a fact that in India there is a high level of rejection towards MSM, “despite the documented presence of a homosocial culture in India, an intolerant and sometimes hostile environment exists for MSM, particularly for those who are gender-variant (NACO, 2007).
Besides finding information about social networks use in this region for minority populations, the research will focus on adult MSM, transgender and their opinion about laws, their feelings about how they support each other, and their experiences regarding safety when walking in Mysore streets as members of a minority population. It will be important for me as the researcher to attain a deep understanding of how these men and third gender struggle day to day when going home to their wife’s- if that was the case; or going home to their partners. Some of the questions that the researcher will like to ask to participants are: (1) Do you define yourself as an MSM or transgender?, (2) Do you use any type of protection when having sex?, (3) Are you married or single, and to a person of what gender?, (4) What resources do you have or will like to have regarding HIV?
On the other hand this research will help me learn and create new ideas that can be applied to my future goals. As a Psychology student, this experience and the research study will allow me to present a project for Grad school that will define my performance as a researcher in a public health program. Focusing on minority populations will add experience and exposure in the field of Psychology and will allow universities see the kind of student I am. This study will not only be personally beneficial, but it could also help provide new research to create and improve social networks for minority populations in the USA and other parts of the world. The only concern that I have about putting a spotlight on this type of topic in India, is the possible homophobia or cultural bias I could encounter when doing my interviews. Because it is such a taboo to talk about minority populations, I know it is going to be difficult connect with people in a way that they would willingly open up about the topic.