Living library project on AIDS Memorial Day where the ‘books’ were real people with stories of their own to share © 2008 Alliance Ukraine Participants in the Photovioce project, India © 2006 Jenny Mathews / Alliance / Photovoice

Innovation and achievement: working with MSM in Senegal


Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa face intense stigma and discrimination © Nell Freeman for the Alliance
Senegal is a politically stable, predominantly Muslim country with one of the lowest rates of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa (0.7%). While the epidemic appears stable in the general population, HIV has disproportionately affected the very poor, those involved in sex work, men who have sex with men (MSM) and migrant workers.

This case study looks in detail at some of the challenges, innovations and achievements of the Alliance’s work with most at risk populations, particularly MSM, in Senegal since 1994.


Alliance Nationale Contre le SIDA (ANCS) was established in 1994 as one of the first Alliance linking organisations in Africa. Over the last 17 years, ANCS has grown both in scale and technical capacity.  Read more here.


In Senegal, same-sex relationships are criminalised and subject to sentences of up to 5 years in prison. In 2002, the Alliance was part of the USG funded “Horizons Project” which published ground-breaking research that documented the extent to which same-sex  relationships were prevalent in Senegal. Building on this report, ANCS established pioneering programming work. In December 2002, it organized a series of training-of-trainers workshops for 24 MSM. Over the next year, they cascaded their knowledge to 145 MSM. This peer education approach continues to this day. 

The Horizons report served as a trigger for the advocacy work on behalf of MSM that ANCS has been carrying out ever since. A major advocacy success for ANCS was the inclusion of MSM related analysis and programmes in the National AIDS Strategic Plan 2007-2011. This reflected the inclusion of MSM representatives in all main decision making entities in Senegal, including the Forum des partenaires, the National AIDS Council, and the Country Coordinated Mechanism (CCM) of the Global Fund.

As a result of these activities, MSM became more visible in society and within the HIV response.  They were included as part of the National AIDS programme and ANCS supported the capacity building efforts of 8 MSM organisations to enable them to position themselves as effective recipients of Global Fund support.

Unfortunately this visibility also lead to a public backlash against MSM – culminating in 2009 with the imprisonment of nine men in a high profile case which attracted international condemnation.

At this time, ANCS was forced to adjust its approach.  They created a “crisis group’ of like-minded organisations to engage more effectively in coalition building and behind-the-scenes advocacy; and engage with social, political and religious authorities, the media and others to reduce violence against MSM.

Read more about the impact of the "crisis group" and its advocay efforts to support groups most at risk of HIV in Senegal in this report (in French): DE L'INTERVENTION EN TEMPS DE CRISE AU PLAIDOYER A LONG TERME : PROMOUVOIR LA TOLERANCE ET LE RESPECT DES DROITS DES GROUPES VULNERABLES AU SENEGAL


Read more about the Alliance’s approach to the HIV-related needs of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa in this guide.

Read this policy briefing on the Observatoire which was a mechanism for facilitating effective dialogue between civil society, government and other stakeholders in Senegal.