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Health Equity in Africa

Mental health, coping and resilience among young men who have sex with men in Zambia.

Mental health, coping and resilience among young men who have sex with men in Zambia.

Abstract

Current law in Zambia criminalises same-sex sexual contact while strong socio-cultural values drive a profoundly negative view of the moral status of gender and sexual minorities. Despite this, Zambia’s national HIV programme has recently identified the predominantly young population of men who have sex with men as a priority group for HIV and other sexual health programming. Research in other African settings has shown how the sexual health of these young men is affected by mental health. This mixed-methods study, which drew on the minority stress model as an analytical framework, sought to explore mental health as an initial step towards understanding its influence on other health domains. Findings describe the tension, and its psychological effects, surrounding the trajectory of discovering and affirming same-sex sexuality in an environment replete with social, physical and emotional risks, but one in which young men must nevertheless seek to create and maintain a meaningful, if precarious, social existence. To achieve this, in the absence of supportive mental health services or other programmatic responses, they adopt numerous risk-mitigation or coping strategies to attempt to build resiliency and to preserve their psychological and emotional well-being.

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