Around the World, amfAR Awards Help Grassroots Groups Battle Prejudice and HIV
As men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be persecuted in many countries, amfAR’s MSM Initiative boosts HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, testing, and treatment efforts
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager, (212) 806-1602
NEW YORK, May 17, 2010—At a time when men who have sex with men (MSM) in many parts of the world face increasing levels of homophobic rhetoric and violence, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research on Monday announced a third round of African, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Caribbean community awards made through its MSM Initiative. The announcement coincides with IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia.
The eight African, seven Caribbean, and seven Eastern Europe and Central Asian awards, which will provide HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, testing, and treatment services to front-line groups working with MSM, range from more than $10,000 to nearly $30,000.
Earlier this year in Kenya, peer educators at an HIV clinic in Kenya that serves MSM were beaten by an anti-gay mob that doused several of the educators with kerosene and tried to set them on fire. In Malawi, members of an amfAR partner organization were forced to leave their clinic after it was broken into by anti-gay activists. In Uganda, the country’s legislature has been considering anti-gay laws that would make consensual sex among HIV-positive adults punishable by death.
In the Caribbean, which has long been one of the world’s most homophobic regions, many MSM community organizers and MSM community members must remain underground for fear of intimidation and violence.
And in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where MSM are often stigmatized and heavily discriminated against, it has been difficult to gain an accurate picture of the scope of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM—and to identify MSM who are in need of education about prevention and treatment.
“Our MSM partners are literally risking their lives to help members of their communities confront the threat of HIV and AIDS,” said Kent Klindera, program manger for amfAR’s MSM Initiative. “We hope these awards will help groups to better connect with MSM, who are highly vulnerable to HIV infection, especially given the homophobic climate that exists in so many countries.”
In Africa, award recipients include a group in Uganda—whose name has been withheld for fear of retribution by anti-gay activists—that will provide counseling and information about HIV/AIDS to MSM; a group in Zambia that will conduct a community-based research study to assess HIV-related risk behaviors among MSM in urban areas; and a group in South Africa that will engage religious leaders to address MSM through their faith communities.
In the Caribbean, recipients include a group in Guyana that will sponsor sign-langue skills-building workshops for both hearing and deaf MSM; a group based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, working to reach MSM infected and affected by HIV; and a group in Kingston, Jamaica, where MSM leaders held the first-ever Jamaican gay pride march in April.
“At a time when so many MSM groups are under constant threat of attack, amfAR is working to make sure their vital work continues, and that these services reach those who need them the most,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “We believe this is more than just a health issue; it’s a human rights issue, because MSM and all vulnerable groups have the right to safely access services that protect their health in the face of HIV/AIDS.”
Since its launch in July 2007, amfAR’s MSM Initiative has made 100 community awards totaling more than US$1.9 million to support 79 frontline organizations serving MSM in 53 countries. Awards have been made in low- and middle-income countries in five regions of the world: Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe/Central Asia, and Latin America.
The need for such work is vital: 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. These rates are consistent across the globe, even in African nations that have generalized epidemics. Yet according to United Nations estimates, by late 2007, a mere eight percent of MSM had been reached by comprehensive HIV prevention programs.
“We believe, through our work and the work of our partner organizations, we’re making an impact on MSM around the world,” Klindera said. “We also believe it’s important to recognize the importance of days like IDAHO as we combat homophobic climates that imperil the lives of so many MSM.”
See the full list of amfAR’s third round of African and Caribbean community awards made through its MSM Initiative.
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 $307 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.