For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager, (212) 806-1602
NEW YORK, May 17, 2012—As the world marks the annual
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on Thursday, May
17, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research announced a fifth round of Caribbean
community awards to support frontline groups working directly with men who have
sex with men (MSM) and transgender populations. These awards were made possible
by a significant contribution from the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
MSM and transgender-targeted HIV/AIDS services in the Caribbean
are scant, and each of the groups conducts outreach and advocacy work in
countries where same-sex sexual activity among men is illegal, and where MSM
often must live in the shadows. The nine awards, which will provide funding for
HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment services, as well as advocacy
efforts, range from more than $10,000 to $20,000 each.
See the full list of amfAR’s fifth round of Caribbean community awards made through its MSM Initiative.
On Tuesday, amfAR co-hosted a forum to discuss MSM in the
Caribbean and Caribbean-American cultures at the New York City headquarters of
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). The forum, co-hosted by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission (IGLHRC), and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, featured the presidents
of two organizations supported in this round of awards—one in Belize, and one in
Trinidad and Tobago—who discussed their experience working with MSM and
transgender individuals in their countries.
One of those local groups was Friends For Life in Port-of-Spain,
Trinidad and Tobago. Its president, Luke Sinnette, said at the forum that
activists and funders need to recognize that empowering local, grass-roots
groups should be the priority—not pressuring governments to act in the interest
of their LGBT citizens. amfAR does exactly that, Sinnette said.
“We want to know that you’re behind us and appreciate all the
help,” Sinnette said. “Use your influence to empower me and other groups to do
the actual work.”
Another funded group, Collaborative Network of Persons Living
with HIV (CNET+) in Belize, is headed by president Eric Castellanos, who also
spoke at Tuesday’s forum. Castellanos’ group trains MSM living with HIV to serve
as peer educators and advocates to speak on behalf of fellow MSM living with
HIV, as well as those vulnerable to infection.
“There is such limited education about how to live a healthy
life with HIV in Belize, especially for MSM,” Castellanos said. “Organizations
like amfAR and the Elton John AIDS Foundation are helping to do the work for our
organizations that our governments are not. They’re empowering us and our
amfAR hosts representatives from two of its Caribbean-based grantee organizations.
“It’s imperative that people everywhere realize that stigma,
discrimination, and punitive laws have a direct and negative impact on our
collective efforts to fight HIV/AIDS around the world,” said amfAR CEO Kevin
Robert Frost. “The Caribbean is a particularly homophobic region with a very
high prevalence of HIV infection. We’re pleased that the MSM Initiative is
helping local groups there confront discrimination and stigma as they seek to
reduce the spread and impact of HIV among their own communities. That’s what the
MSM Initiative is designed to empower local groups to do.”
Programs like amfAR’s MSM Initiative are vital in global efforts
to curb the AIDS epidemic: A 2007 analysis of data from 38 low- and
middle-income countries showed that MSM are 19 times more likely to be infected
with HIV than the general population.
January 2011 analysis by amfAR and the Center for Public Health and
Human Rights (CPHHR) at Johns Hopkins University found that funding to prevent
and treat HIV/AIDS consistently fails to reach programs designed to control the
disease among MSM and transgender individuals. The report found that resources
dedicated to addressing the epidemic among MSM are grossly insufficient, and
that funding intended for this population is often diverted away from
Since its launch in July 2007,
amfAR’s MSM Initiative has made 177 Community Awards totaling more than US$3.2
million to support 128 frontline organizations serving MSM in 70 countries.
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s
leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV
prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public
policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its programs
and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.