This profile was prepared when Paulo Henrique Pinheiro Longo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Male homosexual prostitutes are one of the highest risk groups in Brazil, but they have been largely ignored by studies done on AIDS transmission in Brazil. The one study that has focused on this group found that forty-three percent were HIV positive.In his work with AIDS in general, and with male prostitutes in particular, Paulo suggests some reasons why this high risk group might be resistant to practicing safe sex -- the only real hope now for controlling the spread of AIDS. Typically, this form of prostitution involves contact with multiple high-risk partners daily. And, Paulo adds, clients are often willing to pay higher prices if the sex they buy is not "hampered" by condom use. As most male homosexual prostitutes have turned to the practice of selling sex out of economic necessity, this financial incentive is sometimes all too tempting.Paulo is undertaking the difficult task of trying to get male prostitutes to practice safe sex through an individualized counseling program that builds the self-esteem of these young men. Paulo's counselors are not psychologists or medical professionals, but peer "educators" mostly from the community who nightly "hit the streets," talking to prostitutes where they work, giving them condoms and informing them about health care availability. The established members of this community counsel new arrivals, and those who succeed in changing their life pattern encourage others to do so. The noncoercive and nonjudgmental nature of Paulo's approach reinforces his central theme that these people must take charge of their own psyches and lives. His technique for organizing community self-help psychological care is itself a major innovation, whose implications extend well beyond this one community.