Using Radio, Theater, and Internet, MSM Grantees Will Fight Homophobia and HIV

Published: January 18, 2010

NEW YORK, January 18, 2010—As men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender individuals in many parts of the world face increasing levels of homophobic rhetoric and violence, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research on Tuesday announced a third round of Latin America and Asia-Pacific community awards made through its MSM Initiative, designed to support frontline groups working directly with local MSM and transgender populations.

The seven Latin America and eight Asia-Pacific awards, which will provide funding for HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, testing, and treatment services, range from more than $16,000 to $20,000 each. These awards have been made possible by a generous gift from the Elton John AIDS Foundation (for Latin America), and ViiV Healthcare Positive Action and the AIDS Fonds of the Netherlands (for Asia-Pacific).

“We work directly with grassroots groups because they know best how to effectively reach local MSM and transgender populations, and many of them are using increasingly innovative and creative ways to do that,” said Kent Klindera, director of the MSM Initiative. “It’s still extremely difficult—and often dangerous—to conduct this kind of work in many parts of Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific, so the work these 15 groups do is vital to curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS in these regions.”

In Latin America—where about 2 million people were living with HIV in 2009, according to UNAIDS—funded projects include establishing a community health center for MSM in Asuncion, Paraguay; training young indigenous Yukpa gay men in Venezuela about HIV prevention; and conducting research to examine homophobic attitudes and their relation to HIV vulnerability among MSM in Santiago, Chile.

Additionally, several groups will use innovative ways to reach MSM populations: In Bogota, Colombia, Fundacion Radio Diversa will promote health and human rights by using communications tools including an Internet-based radio program and blogs. In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Asociacion Jovenes en Movimiento (AJEM) will work with theater professionals to help young MSM develop acting and theater production skills while teaching them about homophobia and HIV.

In Asia and the Pacific—where about 4.9 million people were living with HIV in 2009, according to UNAIDS—funded projects include reaching migrant Burmese MSM in Southern Thailand and empowering HIV-positive MSM to engage in local advocacy activities in Baoding, China.

Additionally, several of the Asia-Pacific grantees will help communicate HIV prevention and treatment messages through new channels: In Shenyang, China, Love Support Center for Health and Education, working to build camaraderie among MSM sex workers, will produce the first ever male sex worker periodical in China. In Ulaan-baatar, Mongolia, Youth for Health Center will develop a quarterly newsletter and new radio programming to reach MSM.

“As homophobia and stigma continue to marginalize MSM around the world, we’re confident that amfAR’s MSM Initiative is making a difference for this vulnerable population,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “amfAR is proud of its grassroots partner organizations for helping us reach MSM in ways that are having a real impact.”

Since its launch in July 2007, amfAR’s MSM Initiative has made 115 community awards totaling more than US$2.2 million to support 92 frontline organizations serving MSM in 59 countries. Awards have been made in low- and middle-income countries in five regions of the world: Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe/Central Asia, and Latin America.

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