|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Aware of the lack of knowledge and understanding of the rights of men who have sex with other men (MSM) regarding access to health care, Reseau Africain de Formations sur le VIH/SIDA (the African Network of Training on HIV and Aids) RAF-VIH, conducted a workshop on 14 to 18 April 2011 in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, to sensitize key actors in the fight against the disease and to improve their involvement and skills to better work with MSM.
Titled Understand and work with Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM) for a combined prevention and a global health care of STI and HIV, the workshop brought together 35 participants working in the fight against HIV, among them, health and psychosocial professionals from private and public health structures and civil society organisations from 12 central and western African countries.
Discussions ranged from the socio anthropological aspects of sexuality between men, causes of vulnerability, stigmatisation and discrimination to mental health and operational planning of interventions intended for MSM.
“At a time when many countries understand the necessity of focusing interventions of prevention and health care towards populations most at risk to HIV and STI, it was important for the RAF-VIH to develop a module of training, dealing specifically with the situation of men who have sex with other men”, Dr Jean Baptiste Guilard-Schmid, one of the coordinators of the workshop said.
“Data exists that demonstrates the impact of those targeted interventions on the dynamics of the epidemic and we must deploy our efforts to train the actors of the fight against HIV/AIDS to work with those highly vulnerable populations.” He added.
Some participants expressed how the workshop helped them to, from now onwards; begin integrating issues of MSM in their programming.
Currently, we are starting a prevention programme in Abidjan for which I have been recruited as peer educator. I have already been trained but when I heard about this training on combined prevention, I told myself it comes just at the right time. As from now, we will integrate in our actions such as the psychological support which is presently only accessible at the Health Care Centre” Bienvenue N, one of the participants from Côte d’Ivoire revealed.
Meanwhile Siby Sidi, a doctor from Mali said, “This training was very useful for me since it helped me to reinforce my capacities, in particular in the HIV and STI health care for MSM. It helped us to understand the daily challenges of these people and the discrimination and stigmatisation they face that represent a factor of vulnerability against HIV. It made us aware of the equality of rights to health care.”
This is the involvement of RAF-VIH to this effect which, with the support of divers organisations such as Sidaction, the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNAIDS, the United Nations Programme for Development (UNPD) and the French Cooperation, has brought together some of the best international experts on this issue in order to put together an innovative francophone module likely to be used anytime when training partners will like to do so” he further explained.
The RAF-VIH, which offers trainings on HIV on topics such as the Global Health Care of HIV, The Biology of HIV, the Management of Pharmaceutical stocks, etc. constitutes the “knowledge hub” for western and central Africa and is supported by the World Health Organisation and the GIZ/BACKUP initiative.