Developing a Sexual Health Promotion Intervention With Young Men in Prisons: A Rights-Based Participatory Approach

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Background: The sexual health of young men in prisons is often among the poorest in any given country. They may have developed sexual behaviors that, from a public health perspective, are considered problematic and burdensome. These include poorer use of condoms and engaging in more frequent casual sex, resulting in higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and viral hepatitis. Thus, young incarcerated men are a highly marginalized and socially excluded high-risk group, in greater need of sexual health education and services.

Objective: The aim of this study was to create an innovative sexual health promotion intervention, made for and with young men in prisons, to encourage them to avail of regular sexual health checkups. This included developing a Web-based animated-style sexual health promotion intervention (1.42 min) coupled with upskilling the prison nurses to offer a partnership approach to prison health care. This paper focuses on the development of the intervention and the importance of the underpinning rights-based (RB) participatory intervention design.

Methods: We employed an RB participatory approach and recruited 14 participants who attended 3 coproduction workshops held within a prison site in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. A bespoke 3-day training for nurses beforehand, ensured they gained a deeper understanding of the determinants of poor sexual health. The coproduction team comprised young men, prison nurses, nurse sexual health consultant, media company representatives, and facilitator. Workshops focused on content, design, tone and medium of communication for a Web-based intervention that would be appealing and engaging for young incarcerated men.

Results: A 1.42-min animation Dick loves Doot was created to promote a positive attitude toward sexual health checkups. The RB approach enabled the young men to participate, have their voices heard and see their stories reflected through the animation. The nurses’ capacities to protect, fulfill, and respect the young men’s rights to appropriate sexual health services and education was also enhanced. Evaluations confirmed that we successfully provided accurate sexual health information in a way that was engaging and accessible and that encouraged the young men to avail of the new prison sexual health services that were set up in the prison and now provided by nurses.

Conclusions: The RB participatory approach to health advanced in this study provided a means to (1) gain invaluable insider knowledge to understand the impact of structural determinants on health and health inequalities and strategies by which to target young incarcerated men (2) create inclusive opportunities for developing bespoke targeted interventions, and (3) galvanize collaborative partnerships to disrupt the structures and processes that lead to and encourage health inequities. To reduce future risk, effective treatment, coupled with coproduced interventions that transmit relevant health messages in a relevant and meaningful way, is key to success.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11829
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2019


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