PrEP Among Sub-Saharan African Diaspora Communities in Belgium - a Participatory Action Research Study

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In Belgium, migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) accounted for 45% of new heterosexual HIV infections in 2021, while only 1.5% of PrEP starters were of SSA descent. We explored the acceptance of PrEP and barriers towards PrEP uptake and use among SSA migrant and diaspora communities in Belgium using a participatory action research approach. Trained community researchers (CRs), involved in all phases of the study, co-designed and moderated group discussions (GDs) while simultaneously providing information on HIV and PrEP during workshops. Extensive summaries and field notes were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. CRs were involved in data analysis, interpretation and reporting. We conducted seven GDs with 51 participants. We identified five major themes: (1) Participants had limited PrEP knowledge, which created feelings of surprise and annoyance about not being informed. This was partly explained by (2) the taboo and stigma that surrounds sexuality and HIV, which could shape PrEP acceptance. (3) Participants shared feelings of otherness due to experiences of racism and discrimination, also in relationship to HIV prevention. (4) PrEP was considered a high-threshold prevention tool, because of its perceived side-effects and its specialized service delivery. (5) Despite nuanced opinions about PrEP, all participants agreed that PrEP promotion should be mainstreamed, so everyone can make an informed decision. In conclusion, PrEP seemed acceptable among our participants. Our qualitative study provides insights into the intersecting barriers to accessing HIV services, showing that SSA diaspora communities are 'hardly reached' rather than 'hard to reach' by PrEP promotion messages.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Community Health
Pages (from-to)156-165
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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