CHENNAI, India: Men who were sexually abused by other men when they were children are prone to initiating same-sex encounters, says a study. This puts them at greater risk of HIV.
The study, undertaken by a team from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, covered 11,700 men who have sex with men (MSM) in 12 districts, including Chennai. It found that close to 23% of gender non-conforming boys were victimised by older trusted men, which pushed them to engage in HIV-risk behaviour later in life.
Epidemiologist Sunil Solomon, who was part of the research, said when the team set out to study the burden of HIV among MSM, several participants they surveyed shared their sexual experiences as children. "What troubled us was that many of them described it as experience, not realizing they were survivors of abuse. They thought it was natural, which only further marginalized them," said Solomon.
A kothi (effeminate man) in Chennai recalled his uncle molesting him when he was three. "I didn't know what he was doing," the study quoted him as saying. Later in life, he tested positive for HIV.
Was he a kothi at three, or did he become a kothi because of the sexual abuse?
"I didn't tell anyone what happened to me. When they (his family) scold me (for having HIV), I want to say `You should have taken care when I was young. I am alone now'."
According to official estimates, men who have sex with men have a 12-14 times higher prevalence of HIV than other men.
The study found that the prevalence of child sexual abuse was higher among "gender non-conforming men" than the general population, which also increased their vulnerability to HIV.
Again, were these boys gender-non-conforming before they were abused or because they were abused? I'm inclined to believe it's the latter for most cases.
As stated above many victims thought the behaviour was normal. That, in itself, is enough to cause considerable confusion about gender normalcy.
They found that those who had a history of abuse had approximately 2.5 times more lifetime male sexual partners compared to those without and the HIV prevalence was almost double in the former group.
If this doesn't prove that many men live a gay lifestyle because of environmental factors in their youth, I don't know what else you can conclude from it.
I would also be willing to bet that a disproportionate number of girls who identify as lesbian were also victims of child sex abuse.
Child sexual abuse in general has been identified as an important predictor of high-risk sexual behaviour later in life for both men and women, including early sexual debut, unprotected sex, multiple partners, and engagement in transactional sex, which increases the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
A study by UNICEF, covering 13 states (in India), found that more than half of children (53%) reported abuse, with the prevalence being higher for boys than girls.
The study found the prevalence of child sexual abuse among the group to be the highest in Tamil Nadu where 43.2% of the participants claimed they were sexually abused, with Coimbatore having the highest at 70.2%. In Chennai, 34.3% said they were abused. Experts say the prevalence is probably high in the south because of better reporting.
I am at a loss as to how to explain these numbers; they make little sense to me. If you can sort it out for me, I would appreciate it.
Child rights and LGBT activists say the study has highlighted the need for more intervention programmes for boys who have been victims of abuse.
"While abuse is generally high among children, the prevalence is exceptionally high among gender nonconforming boys. They are already grappling with being different from how the society describes their gender. Abuse just makes things tougher," said Dr L Ramakrishnan, country director, SAATHI, an organisation that works on HIV/AIDS.