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Symposium in Amsterdam October 21st 2004

in NETHERLANDS, 27/07/2004

Homosexualities, HIV/AIDS and Hivos: Why?

Since the early nineties, Hivos takes a leading role against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the South. Having initially promoted projects providing first of all prevention and access to treatment, the general view took hold that HIV/AIDS is in fact a development problem. Structural poverty and social injustice are determining factors regarding cause and effect of an HIV infection and the progress of AIDS as an illness – individually as well as socially. Denial and stigmatization quickly annihilate all efforts towards development cooperation and treatment aid.

Is HIV/AIDS cause or effect?

In cooperation with Amnesty International, Hivos created as early as 1998 media interest by means of an international AIDS workshop for experts on HIV/AIDS and homosexuality during the Amsterdam Gay Games V. Other examples of innovation are an international expert meeting on “AIDS and Microfunding” in April and a first workshop on the same subject matter during the “Hivos Microfunding Festival” in June 2004.

The organization takes an unequivocal stance in confronting the AIDS problem in the South. Hivos policy guidelines especially focus on the defence of human rights and the strengthening of emancipation processes at the crossroads of HIV/AIDS, (homo-)sexuality and gender identity. Hivos explicitly strives to safeguard preventive measures and actions which protect people with HIV/AIDS against neglect and discrimination. Consequently, one of Hivos’ main concerns are MSM or “Men who have Sex with Men”.

Heterosexualization

Marginalization and the association with homosexuality have caused MSM in particular – a much larger population than gay men – to have been neglected by policy makers, government officials, NGOs, scientists and aid providers. Another obstacle for prevention is the opaqueness of homo- or bisexuality and MSM as sociocultural phenomena, which renders too restrictive Western concepts as “homosexuality” too restrictive. A need for political correctness of political and religious elites prevents adequate action aimed at this population in the South, especially by those few institutions aiming to target this epidemiologically very important community, despite a heterosexualization of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

A third obstacle is the widely accepted term “Reproductive Health”, which excludes this population, but which has become instrumental in the competition for international support. MSM often practice high-risk sexuality and do not aim to procreate. MSM are estimated to be the source of at least a third of new infections in Latin America (SIDA y sexo entre hombres en América Latina, 2002). A serious lack of reliable statistics and research into MSM in the South prevents any realistic indication, but actual percentages indicate that real figures are substantially higher, while funding allocated for the benefit of this population is only a fraction of the overall budget.

Out of reach

Men who are MSM may at the same time be husbands, fathers or “bisexual” partners and friends. Most MSM feel no inclination at all to identify with any subculture. As a result, MSM will remain almost or completely out of reach to those NGOs who service men with a homosexual identity. At the same time it is the group of men and boys who define themselves as gay within the MSM population and who are a militant and highly visible minority, which bears the brunt for the much larger group of MSM in confronting stigmatization and homophobia.

Why MSM and why this Symposium?

Who exactly are these MSM and why this quaint acronym? What do terms like “male homosexuality” and “high risk sex” mean in other cultures in the South? Why do MSM often engage in risky sexual activities? How does one create continuing, pro-active and systematic expertise concerning HIV/AIDS in the South?

This Symposium is organised for 200 to 300 guests from the Netherlands and abroad. The debate focuses on:

- What did Hivos achieve in this area within a fifteen year time span?
- Which new discoveries are to be underlined?
- What might Hivos expect to achieve during the next ten or fifteen years?

Hivos offers twenty international MSM experts from the South a first opportunity to share their concerns and sometimes controversial findings with an informed audience under the general caption “Homosexualities, HIV/AIDS and Hivos; WHY?” on 21 October 2004, from 11 am – 5 pm at De Rode Hoed in the Amsterdam city centre.

This Symposium also concludes the professional career of Mr Frans Mom, Hivos Senior Policy Officer LGBT and HIV/AIDS of international repute. (Former) colleagues and friends are warmly invited to drink a Dutch “Borrel” in his company from 5 – 7 PM.

On-line registration only.

English documentation available by 10 November 2004.

Homosexualities, HIV/AIDS and Hivos: WHY?
Symposium in De Rode Hoed on 21 October 2004, from 10.30 am – 5 pm

10:30 Welcome and Buffet

11:15 Official Opening
Welcome Mr Frans Mom
Hivos LGBT and HIV/AIDS Senior Policy Officer

Introduction Mr Paul Janssen, Moderator

11:30 "Male to Male Sex - So-called Normative Males and HIV - Asia"
M Shivananda Khan, India
Co-respondents Mr Martin Foreman, Thailand
Mr Dede Oetomo, Indonesia

Discussion

12:30 "A New Gender Issue - Feminists, Gays and HIV/AIDS - Latin America"
Mr Tim Frasca, Chile
Co-respondents Ms Laura Asturias, Guatemala
Prof Gary Dowsett, USA

Discussion

1:40 Break and Buffet

2:00 "Personal Courage and Public Outcry - Southern Africa"
Judge Edwin Cameron, South Africa
Co-respondents Mr Keith Goddard, Zimbabwe
Mr Juan Nel, South Africa

Discussion

3:00 "Gay Rights contra AIDS Campaigning - Latin America"
Dr Ruben Mayorga, Guatemala
Co-respondents Mr Carlos Cáceres, Peru
Prof Luiz Mott, Brazil

Discussion

4:00 General discussion and questions

4:30 Wrap-up Mr Hans Hoekzema
Hivos Supervisory Board Vice-Chair, Netherlands

4:50 Closing Speech Ms Manuela Monteiro
Hivos Director, Netherlands

5:00 - 7:00 Drink
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