Reinforcing Community HIV Response in Southeast Asia: Applying the MSMIT

A committed group of advocates who work with and for gay men and other men who have sex with men in Southeast Asia, traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam to take part in the regional training on Implementing Comprehensive HIV and STI Programs with Men Who Have Sex with Men: Practical Guidance for Collaborative Interventions (also known as the MSMIT).

Lighthouse Social Enterprise, a Vietnamese community based organization led by LBGTI advocates, and MSMGF joined efforts to host the regional group for a five-day training in August 2017.  The cadre of advocates from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam engaged in a participatory approach, allowing them to share their countries’ contexts, gaps and opportunities for strengthening initiatives and the unique approaches in resource limited environments among other issues.

MSMGF has developed a training guide to support advocates, health workers and others to fully understand the MSMIT and apply its components to improve HIV-related advocacy and service delivery for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).  The training aimed to strengthen the participants’ capacities and skills to use the MSMIT to organize on advocacy, planning and designing effective programs and services for gay men and other MSM in the region.

The group of enthusiastic advocates dived into the concept of community empowerment and ways that communities experience and understand it.  They discussed the realities of violence faced by gay men and other MSM and how they have tackled them.  Participants also shared the challenges and strategies to increase condom and lubricant programing. Equally important, beyond understanding the MSMIT, the gathering created a safe and invaluable space for participants to strengthen their network by meeting new and old peers facing similar challenges and by sharing a plethora of strategies to overcome them. They connected with each other and made lasting working relations to reinforce the HIV response in the region.

After the five-day gathering, participants had an in-depth understanding of MSMIT, its content, recommendations, and resources. They also identified issues and opportunities to work on once they return to their communities.  All sixteen advocates had specific ideas on how to use MSMIT in their advocacy, planning or program design work and presented action plans that included audiences, specific outcomes, identified goals, and follow-up activities that they will take when they return to their countries.

Some advocates proposed to train their peers on MSMIT as a way to promote the tool and to strengthen their peers’ knowledge and skills and to increase the organization’s HIV response. Other participants planned to gather key decision makers from the Ministry of Health, International Non-Government organizations, Global Fund’s Country Coordinating Mechanism members to specifically discuss recommendations to increase funding and support for gay men and other MSM HIV program design and implementation.

The advocates expressed that the work does not stop with the training. They reiterated their commitment to use the skills, knowledge, and tools included in the MSMIT.  For all the participants and the organizers, the training was only the beginning of more things to come to continue to strengthen the community’s HIV response in the region.

With funding from the Dutch Foreign Ministry and Aids Fonds, MSMGF targeted this training at its Bridging the Gaps (BTG) partner organizations across Southeast Asia. Non-BTG organizations were also invited to participate.

MSMGF conducted a similar East Africa sub-regional training in Mombasa, Kenya in June 2017 and was hosted by MSMGF’s long-term partner, PEMA Kenya to promote the roll-out and uptake of MSMIT.

MSMGF also hosts a free e-learning platform called Community Partnership Resrouces(CPR) which delivers the MSMIT in 32 YouTube videos and ebooks for health professional.

About MSMGF:
MSMGF is an expanding network of advocates and other experts in sexual health, LGBT/human rights, research, and policy, working to ensure an effective response to HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men. We are directly linked with more than 120 community-based organizations, across 62 countries.