amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

New amfAR Awards Battle HIV/AIDS, Stigma in Caribbean

Commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), amfAR announces nine awards to groups combatting HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (MSM)

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 community.”

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.

Additionally, a 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 MSM-related services.

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. 

About amfAR 

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.