Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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From stigma to strength: MSM and transgender people at AIDS 2012


A drop-in centre for MSM in India 	© Jenny Matthews for the Alliance

In advance of the International AIDS Conference (22-27 July) the Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) has organised the fourth MSM (men who have sex with men) Pre-Conference (21 July) which the Alliance is pleased to be a part of.

This year’s theme is: From stigma to strength: strategies for MSM, transgender people and allies in a shifting AIDS landscape. Since its inception in 2006, the MSM Pre-Conference has grown to become the largest global gathering of activists, researchers, implementers and donors focused on the health and human rights of men who have sex with men.

Here we look at how support for MSM and transgender people has grown in recent years but there is still much that needs to be done to protect these vulnerable groups from HIV.

Invisible populations

In spite of the efforts of advocates and concerned organisations, the global HIV response has often failed in its responsibility to men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender communities. Disproportionately affected by the epidemic, sexual minorities still struggle to get basic information about HIV even and often face brutal social, political and economic marginalisation.  Invisible in many countries, these populations have only in the past few years seen lives given any priority.

Increasing understanding

While there remains much to do, there is an increasing understanding that a range of interventions are needed to reach MSM and transgender people. Innovative efforts such as amfAR’s MSM Initiative have given grants to MSM and transgender organisations, helping to support urgently needed prevention and advocacy efforts. This strategy has been particularly effective in providing funding in countries where there are few options for other support and open hostility from government. Some bilateral donors have also actively reached MSM in HIV programming, but resistance remains.

The last eight years in particular have seen a marked increase in action to address the inadequacy of the global HIV response for MSM and transgender people. MSMGF was founded by a group of activists in 2004. Since then, with new research showing disturbing evidence of the neglect experienced by sexual minorities, UNAIDS has increased its advocacy, and the Global Fund has developed a strategy to consider the needs of these groups in its funding decisions. In countries around the world, communities are speaking out with greater force.

India: Pehchan

This changing environment has seen increased donor willingness to work with communities and national governments to develop substantial HIV programming for MSM and transgender people. Since 2010, India HIV/AIDS Alliance in a consortium with a group of leading organisations working with MSM, including Alliance Linking Organisation Humsafar Trust, has been collaborating with the Government of India. They work to build the capacity of 200 community-based organisations in 17 states to implement the key prevention strategy for high-risk groups as part of the National AIDS Control Programme. Called Pehchan, this programme is supported by the Global Fund, and it remains their largest single-country grant focused on sexual minorities.

Simran Shaikh is a project officer for Pehchan and will join the panel on transgender health and rights at the MSM Pre-Conference. She is a representative of the hijra community and a powerful advocate for their rights, you can read her story here. India HIV/AIDS Alliance Country Director and MSM Pre-Conference planning committee member James Robertson will moderate a discussion on funding MSM and transgender programming by representatives from bilateral and philanthropic donors.

More national HIV programmes need to work directly with MSM and transgender communities, but this is unfortunately not yet a viable strategy in many countries. Nonetheless, we need to embrace a broader range of options to protect health and wellbeing of these populations.

MSM Pre-Conference

The MSM Pre-Conference will present new research and insights into the current state of the HIV response for MSM and transgender populations. Key challenges and strategies will be explored in plenaries, panel discussions and skill-building sessions. Find out more here.

High-level speakers at the event include United States Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Former Australian High Court Judge Michael Kirby, Dr. Kevin Fenton of the United States CDC, and Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson.

As well as the sessions featuring Alliance India staff highlighted above the International HIV/AIDS Alliance’s Executive Director and Global Fund board member Alvaro Bermejo will join a panel focused on the role of the Global Fund in financing the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

Event details

MSMGF Pre-Conference to the XIX International AIDS Conference

Saturday 21 July, 2012

9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

FHI 360 Conference Center

1825 Connecticut Ave NW

Washington, DC  20009-5721

Click here for information on registration

Find a complete overview of Alliance activities at the International AIDS Conference (22-27 July) - and how to join us.