MSM in Eastern Europe are a highly stigmatized population. These men face high levels of discrimination and a lack of access to HIV health care services; many also live with the knowledge that they may be physically attacked or arrested. These problems are often echoed within Eastern Europe’s health system, where many providers see no need for MSM specific programs or recognize MSM as a priority for HIV interventions.
In this challenging environment, the International HIV AIDS Alliance, supported by USAID through AIDSTAR-Two, launched a detailed situational analysis of MSM/HIV in the region, to analyze, prioritize and develop interventions to address these unfulfilled needs.
The assessment determined that the priority was to develop a comprehensive package of services for MSM that could be incorporated into countries’ national HIV strategic plans. Once the package was developed, an intensive period of consultation and advocacy took place with governments, NGOs and international agencies. As a result of this six-month process, countries endorsed the package of services as the most appropriate approach.
“AIDSTAR-Two has provided us with the legitimacy to discuss this issue with the government,” noted Oleg Eremin, chairperson of Vstrecha, the Belarussian AIDS Network. “Without this support we would not have been able to broach (the topic of) MSM with the health ministry."