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Mental Health Study on Stigma and Depression Among Sexual Minorities

A mental health study on stigma and depression among sexual minorities is being carried out in two phases in the Kolkata office. Phase I took place from May 2011 to January 2012 and Phase II is from February 2012 to October 2012. The title of the project is “Modeling the Impact of Stigma on Depression and Sexual Risk Behaviors of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Hijras/Transgender women in India: Implications for HIV and Sexual Health Programs.”

To capture the regional variations in the experiences of stigma and discrimination and its impact on depression and sexual risk behaviors, four sites were chosen in 4 different states (Villupuram and Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Mumbai and Sangli, Maharashtra, Delhi, and Kolkata, West Bengal). The study covers a combination of metro/urban and semi-urban/rural sites in these 4 states. SAATHII’s Kolkata office serves as the collaborating partner agency for the Kolkata research undertakings.

This study aims to validate a conceptual model of the impact of stigma related to same-sex sexuality, transgender identity and HIV on sexual risk behaviors of men who have sex with men (MSM) and Hijras/transgender women in India.

Stigma against MTH (MSM/Transjender/Hijra) population leads to depression and poor mental health, which in turn leads to risky sexual behavior, and therefore greater vulnerability to HIV. However, it is known that social support provides less stigma and depression.

The study consists of two distinct phases.

(1) Quantitative phase (300 MSM/TG)—a 4-city survey to assess the relationship between HIV related, sexual and transgender identity-related stigma on depression and sexual risk behaviors. This phase was carried out using a structured questionnaire to assess three types of stigma, potential mediators, and outcome variables.

(2) Qualitative phase (40 participants)—in-depth interviews to recruit confirming and disconfirming cases to further explain pathways, contexts, and mechanisms through which stigma may be associated with depression and sexual risk behaviors. This phase is meant to explain and expand on the quantitative findings from Phase I.

At the Kolkata site, the same strategy was. 73% of the respondents were from urban areas and 27% were from suburban areas. The respondents were found mainly through the help of MTH Community Based Organizations (CBO) leaders. 150 questionnaires for 75 MSM and 75 TG/Hijras (27 PLHIV) have been administered in a safe and convenient place of the respondent’s choice.

State (Region) Site Sample Size Collaborating Partner Agency
Tamil Nadu (South) Villupuram and Madurai
(Semi-urban/rural areas)
75 and 75 SWAM and Lotus
Mahrashtra (West) Mumbai metro and Sangli

(Semi-urban)
75 and 75 Humsafar Trust
Delhi (North) Delhi

(Suburban areas in Delhi)
150 Pahal foundation
West Bengal (East) Kolkata (metro and suburban) 150 SAATHII, Kolkata Office

Participating organizations

  • Amitie Trust
  • Anandam
  • Astitva Dakshin
  • Bandhan
  • Durbar Mahila Samannay Samity
  • Dum Dum Swikriti Society
  • Family Planning Association of India
  • KOSHISH
  • MANAS Bangla: Sovabazar, Dumdum, Beleghata and Baruipur DIC
  • PLUS Kolkata
  • Prothom

This project is currently being funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Project Category: 
Project Status: 
  • Jul 13 2012