AIDS fight advocate awarded master’s degree

Research project found several reasons for inconsistent condom use among men

Stabroek News
October 17, 2003

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One of Guyana’s leading advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Dereck Springer, was last month awarded a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree by the University of Nottingham (UoN), England.

Springer, who is the founder and Chairman of Lifeline Counselling Ser-vices, completed the one-year multi-disciplinary course, which commenced in October 2002.

Speaking to Stabroek News recently on his return from England, Springer said that his research project for his MPH is titled “A survey of the use and reasons for inconsistent condom use among urban men in Guyana”.

He explained that the exploratory study, which utilised a qualitative design and semi-structured interview method, attempted to find out why people who were aware that condoms could protect them from HIV continued to use them inconsistently. His research, he said, revealed that men who carried condoms did not always use them and while most were familiar with the disposal of condoms several were unsure about their application.

Springer revealed that his study concluded that the men surveyed used condoms inconsistently because they trusted their partners, felt that condoms reduced their enjoyment of sex and subscribed to the myths surrounding sexual and reproductive health.

He said while they believed that condoms could protect them, they had concerns about their effectiveness and held negative perceptions about condom products.

The study also revealed that they had externalised the threat of HIV to themselves and viewed their possible infection as a remote phenomenon.

Springer’s study made 12 recommendations among which were that condom promotion campaigns need to incorporate messages that encourage men who carry condoms to use them; interventions should help men to deal with denial, enable them to confront their vulnerability and adopt behaviours that reduce their risks of infection; interventions should utilise behaviour models as a means of providing men with the tools necessary to bring about change. To address some of the study limitations, he recommended further research to investigate the condom use patterns of a randomly selected sample of men that is larger and geographically, socially, and ethnically diverse, allowing it to draw conclusions that are more externally valid. Further research was also recommended to investigate the condom errors experienced by men. Springer successfully defended his dissertation on 16 September during the viva voce examination.

The Times Good University Guide ranks UoN at 13 on its list of the top 100 universities in Britain. UoN has a student population of 29,000 spanning three campuses. Its public health programme is highly recognised and the selection process competitive.

Springer said he was the first Guyanese citizen as well as the first person from Latin America and the Caribbean to complete the UoN’s MPH programme. He hopes to pursue a doctoral degree some time in the future. He recommends the UoN to persons interested in pursuing the MPH because of its supportive, nurturing and family- oriented environment. The university’s website\is http://

He advised that anyone desirous of applying should do so by December of the year prior to the year of admission. Prospective students from developing countries could also apply for the Developing Solutions partial tuition scholarship, of which Springer was a beneficiary.

Recounting his years in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Springer told this newspaper that he began his public health career as a volunteer counsellor at the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic in 1993 and was subsequently offered employment there.

During his tenure at the GUM Clinic, he provided counselling to persons living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. A major milestone was the fact that the advocate established a referral network for people living with HIV and AIDS and increased public awareness of the epidemic in Guyana.

He subsequently coordinated the introduction of the Ministry of Health, PAHO/ CAREC-GTZ voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) programme, which began in 1998.

Springer disclosed that he joined the UN Theme Group on HIV and AIDS during PAHO’s chairmanship and played a key role in the Theme Group’s efforts at expanding and strengthening the response to HIV and AIDS in Guyana. He also served on the UNAIDS Focal Point for Guyana and provided technical support to the committee established to develop the Ministry of Health’s Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV protocol.

And apart from Springer’s active participation at regional workshops and trainings, he was appointed as UNAIDS Temporary Advisor on counselling during UNAIDS’ review of counselling in the Latin American and Caribbean region held in Santiago, Chile in 1997.

Springer expressed his gratitude to PAHO/CAREC for funding the other 50% of his tuition fees; the British High Commission in Guyana for putting him in touch with the UoN and facilitating visa clearances for him and his family.

He also extended gratitude to the men who participated in the study for their time and willingness to share their personal experiences. (Samantha Alleyne)

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