As part of a new series, highlighting the people behind the MPOWER programme at HIV Ireland, Diego Caixeta talks breaking cultural barriers and addressing the shame around sex in Ireland.
Diego has been working in both community engagement and in a clinical setting for eight years. His background also allows him to communicate with parts of the community that might be otherwise overlooked. Diego is from Brazil, and thus naturally speaks Portuguese. But he’s also learned Spanish, which allows him to assist the vibrant queer Latin American community in Ireland.
“It’s really important to continue to look at how to break cultural and language barriers and make sure that everybody in our community is supported – not just those who speak the language, or those who are out and on the scene or those who are comfortable with discussing their sexual health.”
Inclusivity is key at MPOWER, and Diego also has experience of working closely with male sex workers. Between his own lived experience and his extensive history with members of even the most marginalised subgroups in the community, Diego is well equipped to provide people with the information and resources they need. Particularly when it comes to having safer sex.
“In Brazil, we have a very different relationship to sex. It’s interesting and sometimes sad to see how much shame there is around sex in Ireland,” he said.
“And if there’s shame around sex, then there’s bound to be shame around sexual health, and this has to be addressed.”
Diego worries that this culture of shame may only be further exacerbated by the pandemic, leading to many more problems down the line.
“We don’t police guys or the sex they choose to have, but I do worry that with a lack of clinical sexual health services available during Covid-19, that we might see a sharp spike in sexually-transmitted infections in our community. I think this is a huge challenge that we’re heading towards.”
MPOWER have launched Ireland’s first free HIV self-test service and will continue to support the community throughout any COVID-based restrictions.
For further information on MPOWER and the services they provide, visit their website here.
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