Access, Identity and Men (AIM): How South Asian MSM navigate their sexual and overall health

Community-Based Research Award

Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP)

Research Team: Ramraajh Sharvendiran, Vijaya Chikermane, Trevor Hart, Haran Vijayanathan, Zavaré Tengra, Antoney Baccas

What is this project about?

The Access, Identity and Men (AIM) Study was undertaken by the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) to fill the gaps in knowledge and evidence on the sexual health patterns of South Asian men who have sex with men, as related to HIV risk and prevention. This research is intended to ensure that ASAAP’s and other service programs for South Asian men are based on evidence and are as impactful as possible, and that South Asian communities are visible and well-supported.

The research explores how culture, identity, risk, access, and STI knowledge affect the way that individuals navigate their sexual health and overall health. The study is looking for community strengths and challenges (individual and societal). It uses community focus groups and one-on-one interviews.


The AIM Study gathered information from 39 South Asian men about these perspective and experiences regarding relationships, mental health and social isolation, sex, HIV and health.

Participants talked about their experiences of living in cultures where sex outside of heterosexual marriage was taboo, and where for many compartmentalizing their sexuality was normal. Many talked about the associated stigma and social isolation and reported experiences of anxiety or depression due to this isolation. Some reported difficulty being out to health care providers, particularly family doctors.

South Asian men also talked about experiences of racism within the largely white gay community, and how their experiences influenced their ability to negotiate safer sex. Religion was an interesting topic as some cited it as a source of homophobia; while others saw it as a source of strength and community, and a grounded connection to culture.

The findings have important implications for ASAAP’s programming including:

  • A continued need to promote social support networks and services for South Asian gay men
  • The importance of maintaining privacy and confidentiality, and building community trust
  • A recognition of the benefits of group approaches to support and to multilingual support
  • The need for improved access to health care since some men were not accessing needed sexual and mental health services due to barriers including: language, location, privacy, and stigma.
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