amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

GMT Initiative Formalizes Its Mentoring Program

Since 2009, amfAR’s GMT Initiative has provided capacity strengthening support to over half its grantee partners in the five regions where it works—Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This support includes short-term mentoring relationships between GMT Initiative grantee partners and local experts on various organizational and technical issues. Starting in November 2013, with generous support from the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Contributions Group, the GMT Initiative will develop a system to formally analyze this technical support program and scale up its best practices. “In the coming year, we will be able to better document the impact these mentoring experiences have on the capacity of our grantee partners,” says Kent Klindera, director of the GMT Initiative.  

Members of HOYMAS, a GMT Initiative grantee partner in Kenya, take part in a training session. (Photo: Chris Vail)

Many of the community-based organizations the GMT Initiative supports are run by GMT community members and activists with little prior experience in HIV programming and organizational management. At the start of the program, participating grantee partners conduct a technical assistance audit to determine which areas they want to focus on. amfAR then secures a local expert to pair them with based on those identified needs. The mentor performs regular site visits and in-person trainings, and stays in frequent communication throughout the year to provide ongoing guidance to help the grantee partner strengthen its organizational skills and maximize the impact of its work.

The new formalized capacity strengthening program will initially include ten grantee partners in Latin America and Africa. The GMT Initiative will work with the Global Fund for Children to modify a similar system they have developed to monitor mentor/mentee relationships, including by measuring the program’s success in helping grantees achieve certain “leverage points.” Examples of “leverage points” include developing a formal monitoring and evaluation system for the grantee’s program, presenting information about the program at a regional or international conference, or securing new funding from a more sustainable donor, such as a local government or a larger development partner like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) or the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

HOYMAS is one of the ten initial participant organizations in the GMT Initiative’s new technical assistance program. (Photo: Chris Vail)

Additionally, mentors will document their mentoring methods and tools and then attend regional meetings to discuss these strategies with one another. Based on the meetings, the GMT Initiative will produce a document outlining the best mentor practices for other community-based organizations and mentors to use. The program will also include an online vehicle that connects mentors so they can exchange information and continue the dialogue.

HOYMAS, an organization for male sex workers and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya, is one veteran GMT Initiative grantee partner that will be included among the ten initial participants in the new program. The organization developed its first strategic plan this year through working with mentor David Kuria,  the policy and advocacy advisor at the Healthy Policy Project. HOYMAS works with GMT to help them adhere to HIV treatment and offers HIV testing, counseling, nutritional trainings, and food. “HIV-positive MSM in Kenya continue to live in denial, and HOYMAS is the first group in Kenya that provides safe-space and a non-stigmatizing environment for MSM living with HIV,” says Kuria.

HOYMAS also trains healthcare providers about the unique health needs of GMT in an effort to reduce discrimination and improve the care they receive in healthcare settings. Additionally, it advocates for the improvement of human rights for gay and other male sex workers across Kenya. HOYMAS’ new strategic plan sets three-year goals for these programs and goals to improve organizational structure and collaboration with partners and stakeholders. “The technical assistance program enables grantees to do their work with sharper and better defined clarity,” says Kuria. “Supporting GMT groups in Africa through the technical assistance program is as important as generating new HIV/AIDS data, because without their continued advocacy the data will only gather dust on government shelves.”