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1.
Int J Equity Health ; 21(1): 67, 2022 05 16.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1846842

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: In high income countries, racialized/ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by COVID-19. Despite the established importance of community involvement in epidemic preparedness, we lack in-depth understanding of these communities' experiences with and responses to COVID-19. We explored information and prevention needs, coping mechanisms with COVID-19 control measures and their impact on lived experiences among selected racialized/ethnic minority communities. METHODS: This qualitative rapid assessment conducted in Antwerp/Belgium used an interpretative and participatory approach. We included migrant communities with geographic origins ranging from Sub-Saharan Africa, North-Africa to the Middle East, Orthodox Jewish communities and professional community workers. Data were collected between May 2020-May 2021 through key informant-, in-depth interviews and group discussions (N = 71). Transcripts were analyzed inductively, adopting a reflexive thematic approach. A community advisory board provided feedback throughout the research process. RESULTS: Participants indicated the need for tailored information in terms of language and timing. At the start of the epidemic, they perceived official public health messages as insufficient to reach all community members. Information sources included non-mainstream (social) media and media from home countries, hampering a nuanced understanding of virus transmission mechanisms and local and national protection measures. Participants felt the measures' most negative impact on their livelihoods (e.g. loss of income, disruption of social and immigration support). Economic insecurity triggered chronic stress and fears at individual and family level. High degrees of distrust in authorities and anticipated stigma were grounded in previously experienced racial and ethnic discrimination. Community-based initiatives mitigated this impact, ranging from disseminating translated and tailored information, providing individual support, and successfully reaching community members with complex needs (e.g. the elderly, digitally illiterate people, those with small social networks or irregular legal status). CONCLUSION: Study participants' narratives showed how coping with and responding to COVID-19 was strongly intertwined with socio-economic and ethnic/racial characteristics. This justifies conceptualizing COVID-19 a social disease. At the same time, communities demonstrated resilience in responding to these structural vulnerabilities. From a health equity perspective, we provide concrete policy recommendations grounded in insights into communities' structural vulnerabilities and resilience.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Aged , Belgium , COVID-19/prevention & control , Ethnic and Racial Minorities , Ethnicity , Humans , Minority Groups
2.
AIDS Patient Care STDS ; 36(4): 159-167, 2022 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1795404

ABSTRACT

It remains unclear why patients discontinue HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) care and to what extent they remain at risk for HIV when they do. We reviewed routinely collected medical records and patient questionnaires and performed an e-mail/telephone survey to assess reasons for discontinuing PrEP care, ongoing risks for HIV infection, and associated factors. Patients with more than two registered PrEP visits from a PrEP clinic in Antwerp, Belgium between June 2017 and February 2020 were included in this study. Patients who did not return for a visit after October 30, 2019 and who were not transferred out were considered as having discontinued PrEP care. A total of 143/1073 patients were considered as having discontinued PrEP care. Patients who discontinued PrEP care were more likely to be younger than those who remained in care (35 vs. 38 years old, p < 0.01). The most common reasons for discontinuation were having stopped using PrEP (62/101, 61.4%) and "COVID-19" (n = 35, 34.7%). The most common reasons for stopping PrEP use was a decreased sexual activity due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19; 21/62, 33.9%) or not COVID-19 related (10/62, 16.1%), a monogamous relationship (20/62, 32.3%) and consistent condom use (7/62, 11.3%). Among respondents who reported about current HIV risk the majority reported being at low risk either by still taking PrEP (32/91, 35.2%), consistently using condoms, or limiting number of sex acts or partners (58/91, 52.7%). No HIV seroconversion was reported.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , HIV Infections , Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis , Adult , Belgium/epidemiology , HIV Infections/epidemiology , HIV Infections/prevention & control , Homosexuality, Male , Humans , Male , Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis/methods , Sexual Behavior , Surveys and Questionnaires
3.
EuropePMC; 2020.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-323203

ABSTRACT

Background: The importance of community involvement in the response against disease outbreaks has been well established. However, we lack insights into local communities’ experiences in coping with the current COVID-19 pandemic. This study explored both the impact of, and response to, COVID-19 within the Orthodox Jewish communities of Antwerp (Belgium) during the first lockdown period (March 2020 – May 2020). Methods: : We conducted an explorative qualitative study using a participatory approach. First, we performed a community mapping to identify relevant stakeholders. Through the active involvement of a community advisory board and based on qualitative interviews with key-informants and community members, we elicited lived experiences, attitudes, and perceptions towards COVID-19. Interviews were conducted both face-to-face and using online web conferencing technology. Data were analyzed inductively according to the principles of thematic analysis. Results: : Government-issued outbreak control measures presented context-specific challenges to the Orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp. They related mainly to the remote organization of religious life, and practicing physical distancing in socially and culturally strongly connected communities. Key informants described how existing community resources were rapidly mobilized to adapt to the outbreak and to self-organize response initiatives within communities. This included the active involvement of community and religious leaders in risk communication, which proved to be of great importance to facilitate coverage and uptake of pandemic control measures while protecting essential community values and traditions. Creating bottom-up and community-adapted communication strategies, including addressing language barriers and involving Rabbis in the dissemination of prevention messages, fostered a feeling of trust in government’s response measures. However, unmet information and prevention needs were also identified, such as the need for inclusive communication by public authorities and the need to mitigate the negative effects of stigmatization. Conclusion: The experiences of Orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp demonstrate a valuable example of a feasible community-centered approach to health emergencies. Increasing the engagement of communities in local decision-making and governance structures remains a key strategy to respond to unmet information and prevention needs.

4.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-296881

ABSTRACT

Background: In high income countries, racialized/ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by COVID-19. We lack in-depth understanding of these communities’ experiences with and responses to COVID-19 despite the established importance of community involvement in epidemic preparedness. We explored information and prevention needs, coping mechanisms with COVID-19 control measures and their impact on lived experiences among selected racialized/ethnic minority communities. Methods: This qualitative rapid assessment conducted in Antwerp/Belgium used an interpretative and participatory approach. We included migrant communities with geographic origins ranging from Sub-Saharan Africa, North-Africa to the Middle East, Orthodox Jewish communities and community workers working with these groups. Data were collected between May 2020 - May 2021 through key informant-, in-depth interviews and group discussions (N=71). Transcripts were analyzed inductively, adopting a reflexive thematic approach. A community advisory board provided feedback throughout the research process. Results: Participants indicated the need for tailored information in terms of language and timing. At the start of the epidemic, they perceived official public health messages as insufficient to reach all community members. Information sources included non-mainstream (social) media and media from home countries, hampering a nuanced understanding of virus transmission mechanisms and local and national protection measures. Participants felt the measures’ most negative impact on their livelihoods (e.g. loss of income, disruption of social and immigration support). Economic insecurity triggered chronic stress and fears at individual and family level. High degrees of distrust in authorities and anticipated stigma were grounded in previously experienced racial and ethnic discrimination. Community-based initiatives mitigated this impact, ranging from disseminating translated and tailored information, providing individual support, and successfully reaching community members with complex needs (e.g. the elderly, digitally illiterate people, those with small social networks or irregular legal status). Conclusion: Study participants’ narratives showed how coping with and responding to COVID-19 was strongly intertwined with socio-economic and ethnic/racial characteristics, justifying conceptualizing COVID-19 a social disease. At the same time, communities demonstrated resilience in responding to these structural vulnerabilities. From a health equity perspective, we provide concrete policy recommendations grounded in insights into communities’ structural vulnerabilities and resilience.

5.
Lancet Infect Dis ; 21(5): 657-667, 2021 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1510463

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are highly prevalent among men who have sex with men who use HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which leads to antimicrobial consumption linked to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. We aimed to assess use of an antiseptic mouthwash as an antibiotic sparing approach to prevent STIs. METHODS: We invited people using PrEP who had an STI in the past 24 months to participate in this single-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, AB/BA crossover superiority trial at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium. Using block randomisation (block size eight), participants were assigned (1:1) to first receive Listerine Cool Mint or a placebo mouthwash. They were required to use the study mouthwashes daily and before and after sex for 3 months each and to ask their sexual partners to use the mouthwash before and after sex. Participants were screened every 3 months for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhoea at the oropharynx, anorectum, and urethra. The primary outcome was combined incidence of these STIs during each 3-month period, assessed in the intention-to-treat population, which included all participants who completed at least the first 3-month period. Safety was assessed as a secondary outcome. This trial is registered with Clinicaltrials.gov, NCT03881007. FINDINGS: Between April 2, 2019, and March 13, 2020, 343 participants were enrolled: 172 in the Listerine followed by placebo (Listerine-placebo) group and 171 in the placebo followed by Listerine (placebo-Listerine) group. The trial was terminated prematurely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 151 participants completed the entire study, and 89 completed only the first 3-month period. 31 participants withdrew consent, ten were lost to follow-up, and one acquired HIV. In the Listerine-placebo group, the STI incidence rate was 140·4 per 100 person-years during the Listerine period, and 102·6 per 100 person-years during the placebo period. In the placebo-Listerine arm, the STI incidence rate was 133·9 per 100 person-years during the placebo period, and 147·5 per 100 person-years during the Listerine period. We did not find that Listerine significantly reduced STI incidence (IRR 1·17, 95% CI 0·84-1·64). Numbers of adverse events were not significantly higher than at baseline and were similar while using Listerine and placebo. Four serious adverse events (one HIV-infection, one severe depression, one Ludwig's angina, and one testicular carcinoma) were not considered to be related to use of mouthwash. INTERPRETATION: Our findings do not support the use of Listerine Cool Mint as a way to prevent STI acquisition among high-risk populations. FUNDING: Belgian Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO 121·00).


Subject(s)
Anti-Bacterial Agents/administration & dosage , HIV Infections/prevention & control , Homosexuality, Male , Mouthwashes , Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis , Sexually Transmitted Diseases/prevention & control , Adult , Cross-Over Studies , Double-Blind Method , Humans , Incidence , Male , Middle Aged , Sexually Transmitted Diseases/epidemiology
6.
Int J Equity Health ; 20(1): 78, 2021 03 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1136225

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The importance of community involvement in the response against disease outbreaks has been well established. However, we lack insights into local communities' experiences in coping with the current COVID-19 pandemic. This study explored both the impact of, and response to, COVID-19 within the Orthodox Jewish communities of Antwerp (Belgium) during the first lockdown period (March 2020 - May 2020). METHODS: We conducted an explorative qualitative study using a participatory approach. First, we performed a community mapping to identify relevant stakeholders. Through the active involvement of a community advisory board and based on qualitative interviews with key-informants and community members, we elicited lived experiences, attitudes, and perceptions towards COVID-19. Interviews were conducted both face-to-face and using online web conferencing technology. Data were analyzed inductively according to the principles of thematic analysis. RESULTS: Government-issued outbreak control measures presented context-specific challenges to the Orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp. They related mainly to the remote organization of religious life, and practicing physical distancing in socially and culturally strongly connected communities. Existing community resources were rapidly mobilized to adapt to the outbreak and to self-organize response initiatives within communities. The active involvement of community and religious leaders in risk communication proved to be of great importance to facilitate the coverage and uptake of pandemic control measures while protecting essential community values and traditions. Creating bottom-up and community-adapted communication strategies, including addressing language barriers and involving Rabbis in the dissemination of prevention messages, fostered a feeling of trust in government's response measures. However, unmet information and prevention needs were also identified, such as the need for inclusive communication by public authorities and the need to mitigate the negative effects of stigmatization. CONCLUSION: The experiences of Orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp demonstrate a valuable example of a feasible community-centered approach to health emergencies. Increasing the engagement of communities in local decision-making and governance structures remains a key strategy to respond to unmet information and prevention needs.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/prevention & control , Communicable Disease Control/methods , Community Participation/psychology , Jews/psychology , Trust/psychology , Adult , Aged , Belgium/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control/legislation & jurisprudence , Community-Based Participatory Research , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Qualitative Research , Quarantine/legislation & jurisprudence
7.
Sex Transm Infect ; 97(6): 414-419, 2021 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-919096

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: To examine changes in the occurrence of physical sex with non-steady partners among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Belgium during the first weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown and associations with sociodemographic factors, sexual practices, drug, alcohol and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use. A secondary objective was to explore changes in PrEP use and the need for PrEP follow-up. METHODS: A cross-sectional online survey. The questionnaire was available in Dutch, French and English, between April 10 and 27 (2020), and disseminated via sexual health and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex organisations throughout Belgium. Eligibility criteria included being 18 years or older, not being exclusively heterosexual and living or being born in Belgium. RESULTS: The sample included 694 MSM. Physical sex with non-steady partners decreased from 59.1% to 8.9% during the first weeks of the lockdown. Those who had sex with non-steady partners were significantly more likely to be HIV positive, to use PrEP or to have engaged in sexual practices such as group sex, chemsex and sex work before the lockdown, compared with their counterparts. Among those who used PrEP before the lockdown, 47.0% stopped using PrEP, 19.7% used event-driven PrEP and 33.3% used daily PrEP during the lockdown. Almost two-thirds of PrEP users had a PrEP care appointment in the weeks before the lockdown and a minority received follow-up elsewhere or online. Some PrEP users had concerns regarding their follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: MSM in our survey substantially reduced sexual contact with non-steady partners during the first weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, suggesting that the risk for HIV and STI transmission in this period was low. We recommend ensuring access to sexual health services, such as HIV testing and follow-up for PrEP for the small group having multiple sex partners and engaging in sexual practices such as chemsex, or group sex, even in times of a pandemic threat.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis , Sexual Behavior/statistics & numerical data , Sexual Partners , Sexual and Gender Minorities/statistics & numerical data , Adult , Belgium/epidemiology , Cross-Sectional Studies , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Physical Distancing , Quarantine , SARS-CoV-2 , Surveys and Questionnaires
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