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Vernacular knowledge and critical pedagogy: conceptualising sexual health education for young men who have sex with men

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Over 30 years after HIV was first recognised in the USA, the epidemic continues to pose a disproportionate threat to vulnerable and marginalised populations. Increasing HIV incidence among young men who have sex with men has spurred debate around the content and approach to HIV prevention interventions directed towards this vulnerable population. A comprehensive model for conceptualising the content of sexual health education is described, which can be tailored to the unique needs and experiences of young men who have sex with men through the application of social theory. Vernacular knowledge is incorporated as a manner of nesting sexual health messages within the shared understandings of young men regarding same-sex sexual practices, gender roles and expectations, community mores and conventions and other shared knowledge of sex and sexuality. Critical pedagogy is then discussed as a way of guiding one’s pedagogical approach during intervention design and implementation that is most conducive to both individual empowerment and community solidarity. The paper concludes with strategies for turning the corner from theory to practice, beginning with formative research that culminates in the design of relevant, community-based sexual health education programmes for young men who have sex with men.
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Keywords: HIV; Sexual health; education; young men who have sex with men

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: March 3, 2016

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