Juan Jacobo Hernández
This profile was prepared when Juan Jacobo Hernández was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Review statements from the 1996 international conference on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, held in Vancover, B.C., reported that urban males who have sex with other males are one of two Mexican populations where the disease rates are climbing: the other is a newer epidemic among rural women who are infected through heterosexual contact. Juan Jacobo Hernández addresses a reality behind the statistics: that despite a relatively high proportion of men who have sex with other men, homosexuality is still poorly understood in the region, and few men identify or describe themselves with terms like homosexual or bisexual. It follows that it is difficult to successfully target this audience. Further, Juan believes that the HIV prevention campaigns that do appear on television, which generally focus on abstinence, are not realistic or even intended for the gay population. Juan has developed techniques to effectively inform males who have sex with other males of their risk of contracting the AIDS virus; his work evokes Mexico's success over the 1990'sin large part through a public information campaignto halt the spread of the disease via contaminated blood. Working on the premise that the homosexual and bisexual populations are not protecting themselves adequately from any sexually transmitted diseases, Juan Jacobo decided to discover the places where they carry out their relations and spread his message to them directly. He found that the most common settings for homosexual activity include the 30 to 40 public bathhouses in Mexico City, so he takes his message there.