To crown the month of July, Men of the Night Uganda (MONU) hosted the second sitting of #MenChatMonday at the Ice Breakers Uganda (IBU) office premises. The one-hour program that takes place quarterly provides gay men/ MSMs in Uganda the platform to have uncensored conversations on issues concerning their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
In the second gathering, the discussion which was moderated by IBU’s Bob Bwana was centered around condomless sex- a topic that saw the participants eagerly engage and share their experiences.
During the conversation in uncovering the myths and telling truths about sex without a condom, participants agreed on the reality that sex work isn't only about monetary gains. Sex work is defined as any exchange for sex. Various reasons were raised as to why a number of MSMs prefer sex without protection which included -poor negotiation skills with clients, desperation, greed for money, alcohol and substance abuse, unexpected situations in meeting places without lubricants and condoms.
Some MSMs admitted that it is also a choice not to use condoms as some rather opt for PrEp because condoms don't fit them well while to others, they cause discomfort. One of the participants confessed that there are incidences when they have been raped by clients when they refused to indulge in unprotected sex.
Elvis Ayesiga, the Programs Director of IBU remarked that even though there is PrEp to tackle new HIV infections, there is no protection from other STIs. "We must continue using condoms to save us from other health issues. We swallow PrEp with the perception that we can't get HIV and can treat other STDs but there are those STIs that are untreatable. We need to remember that."
One of the panelists, Devine suggested that while it is wrong and uncouth, many people have condomless sex because they are already infected with HIV. "This is something that we ignore so much that we don't even want to openly discuss it. They tell themselves why should they care when they are already sick so they become adamant about the safety of the other people they choose to engage in sex with."
On realistic ways forward, participants deemed it important to continuously use condoms that fit to avoid inconveniences and also adhere to PrEp. They were also advised not to be desperate or greedy for money but prioritize life over sex work. One of the participants cautioned, "We forget that money can't buy life and there is no spare."
MSMs were also advised to negotiate with their clients before they actually meet them. They were also encouraged to be economically empowered and not entirely depend on sex work as this will keep them from giving in to the dangerous demands of their clients who can't agree to safe sex measures.
Another panelist told the audience that it is very wise to ask clients what to expect and tell them what they should expect from male sex workers instead of just diving into these jobs. "Let them know the extremes of your work and you shouldn't be forced to do everything the client asks. Come to a mutual understanding with your customers," he urged.