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New amfAR Awards Combat HIV/AIDS, Homophobia, and Stigma in Africa

in WORLD, 11/04/2012

As violence, stigma, and discrimination toward gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender individuals in many countries in Africa continue to attract worldwide attention, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Tuesday announced a fifth round of Africa community awards to support frontline groups working directly with local MSM and transgender populations.

 The seven 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. Most of the groups receiving the awards conduct outreach and advocacy work in countries where same-sex sexual activity, especially among men, is illegal.
 
See the full list of amfAR’s fifth round of Africa community awards made through its MSM Initiative: http://www.amfar.org/content.aspx?id=14203#Africa
 
“There is continuing concern that the social climate in many African countries is increasingly homophobic, so the groups we work with through our MSM Initiative are not only doing vital work, but also very dangerous work,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “We know that HIV and other sexually transmitted infections thrive in these kinds of discriminatory environments, so the work our partners do in Africa is critically important.”  Funded projects range from using an arts-based approach to reach deaf MSM in South Africa to increasing the participation of gay men and other MSM in national HIV/AIDS policy discussions in Burundi .
 
In Togo—a country where consensual same-sex sexual activity can be penalized by up to three years in prison—the funded group, Espoi Vie Togo, will help create the first ever safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and other MSM in the country. The facility will provide access to psychosocial support, HIV testing and counseling, and other essential services.   “Since 2008, Espoir Vie Togo has worked with the MSM community to address HIV prevention and treatment services, but we realized we also needed to incorporate psychological and social care into them to fully serve the community’s needs,” said Yves Kugbe, coordinator of programs for Espoir Vie Togo . “We also needed to increase our advocacy activities to help promote a healthier environment for MSM. amfAR’s MSM Initiative helped us meet both of these needs.”
 
Many of the MSM Initiative’s projects encourage primary award recipients to train other outreach workers to amplify the impact of the award. For example, Health Options for Young Men on HIV, AIDS and STIs (HOYMAS) in Nairobi , Kenya , will provide sex workers living with HIV with HIV prevention and treatment information. Those workers, in turn, will pass that knowledge on to other sex workers. Additionally, HOYMAS is working with the Kenyan government to improve public policies related to HIV among male sex workers.
 
“We’re only going to realize the Obama Administration’s vision of an ‘AIDS-free generation’ if we reach as many people possible with HIV/AIDS prevention education, testing, and treatment,” said MSM Initiative Director Kent Klindera. “Our partners on the ground in Africa and elsewhere understand the importance of using our funding to help them spread life-saving information to of the MSM and transgenders. We design our awards to help fill a distinct need, but also to serve as an important catalyst for change.”
 
Programs like amfAR’s MSM Initiative are vital in global efforts to curb the AIDS epidemic globally: 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 161 Community Awards totaling more than US$3 million to support 117 frontline organizations serving MSM in 66 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 $340 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.
 
Africa Community Awards – 2012
 
Mouvement pour les Libertés individuelles (MOLI) ( Bujumbura , Burundi ) $12,080

Increasing MSM Participation in the Fight Against AIDS in Burundi  
The project aims to increase the participation of gay men and other MSM in national HIV/AIDS policy discussions, with particular emphasis on the National Council Against AIDS and the Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund in Burundi . MOLI will focus its efforts on the inclusion of MSM as a priority in various plans, including revising national standards for HIV prevention materials, as well as working to ensure greater government support.
 
Health Options for Young Men on HIV, AIDS and STIs (HOYMAS) ( Nairobi , Kenya ) $20,000
Awareness, Capacity Building , and Treatment/Care
The project will provide male sex workers (MSW) living with HIV with HIV prevention and treatment information. These peer educators will in turn perform outreach work among fellow MSW in Nairobi, distributing informational materials, and providing referrals for testing and treatment. Additionally, HOYMAS will develop a website to disseminate HIV information, promote its services, and further engage and educate MSW in Kenya .
 
Center for the Development of People (CEDEP) ( Lilongwe , Malawi ) $20,000
Evidence-Based, Targeted HIV Prevention Project
The project will train peer educators on new and effective HIV prevention methods and will distribute condoms and lubricant in Lilongwe . Additionally, CEDEP will train workers at private and public health centers to provide health care services that are inclusive of MSM health needs, as well as strengthen referral systems to promote use of MSM-friendly HIV services. 
 
WhyCan’tWeGetMarried.com (WCWGMC) ( Freetown , Sierra Leone ) $10,000
Breaking Down Taboos and Raising HIV/AIDS Awareness Among MSM 
The project will work with MSM and transgender populations to strengthen HIV/AIDS knowledge, distribute condoms and lubricant, and promote HIV testing with street theater techniques. To inform these outreach efforts, the organization will implement a knowledge, attitude, and practice (KAP) study to gauge the level of knowledge in these populations. The results of this study will be used to advocate with decision makers on improving support for MSM- and transgender-specific health services in Sierra Leone .
 
Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) ( Johannesburg , South Africa ) $15,000
See It, Sign It, Share It! Using Arts to Build Deaf MSM/TG Leadership on HIV Prevention in SA
The project will use an arts-based approach to engage deaf MSM and transgender individuals in addressing HIV issues in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. After completion of a training course in creating artistic behavior-change communication materials, GALA will work with participants to prepare and present advocacy presentations for various stakeholders, raising awareness and support for HIV programming among deaf MSM and transgender communities.
 
Espoir Vie Togo (EVT) ( Lomé , Togo ) $17,456
Ahoefa – The House of Peace 
The project will help create the first-ever safe space for LGBT people and other MSM in Togo . Ahoefa – The House of Peace will provide access to psychosocial support, HIV testing and counseling, prevention discussion groups, condoms, and lubricant. The project will also provide financial support for scholarships for deserving students, micro-credit programs, and vocational skills training. EVT will engage policy makers, media representatives, religious leaders, and health care workers in discussions about stigma and homophobia and their effects on HIV vulnerabilities among LGBT people and other MSM.
 
Icebreakers Uganda ( Kampala , Uganda ) $12,500
Icebreakers Uganda MSM Initiative 
The project will provide a holistic approach to HIV services for MSM, including HIV education, counseling and testing, and health and rights awareness. Icebreakers will also provide online outreach to MSM who are not able to access the Icebreakers community center. They will train peer leaders to conduct advocacy work with key decision makers, including police officers, to address stigma and discrimination in Uganda .

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