Researchers team up for HIV health literacy interventions

18 August 2015

Researchers, health service providers and community members have formed an international network to explore the issues of sexual-health literacy for gay men, both to develop new health literacy interventions and to create research collaborations to further address knowledge gaps.

Health literacy is the ability to access, understand, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings across the life-course. For gay men, health literacy skills are critical to sexual health, particularly today given the increasing complexity of HIV risk and prevention information, and wide variety of means through which it is available.

Many current health promotion efforts for gay men are focused on aspects of health literacy. However, a robust health-literacy approach includes focusing not just on gay men as users of information, but also service providers and health agencies.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, experts gathered at the British Columbia Gay Men’s Health Summit to discuss and describe perspectives of health literacy and its relevance to gay men’s sexual health and HIV prevention, in order to establish a foundation for future research on this topic. The team included Glasgow Caledonian University’s Professor Paul Flowers, representatives from Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Community-based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health, the University of Victoria, the University of Glasgow and Western University.

The team produced an emerging framework for sexual-health literacy for gay men, which recognises the central importance of the health information itself, the importance of addressing health-literacy skills for both users and providers, and a range of user- and provider-specific factors that may be avenues for further research or intervention.

GCU’s Professor Flowers said: “To move a research agenda forward based on this framework, better understanding existing health-literacy skills of gay men and providers, and how these are influenced by identified system factors, is a crucial starting point.”

GCU’s allied health research is ranked in the top 20 UK universities (Research Excellence Framework 2014), with our research into HIV testing leading impacts on health policy (WHO and NICE guidelines) and services relating to HIV testing amongst vulnerable populations across Europe, and particularly, Scotland. 

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