The world is changing, and so are we.
We believe that strategies for advocacy must always change to keep pace with the evolving needs of our communities. That is why, over a decade after our founding, we have expanded our mission and changed our name.
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV will now be known as MPact: Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights.
MPact’s revised mission is to ensure equitable access to sexual health services for all gay men and bisexual men, while promoting human rights worldwide. Homophobia and violence will be main targets in our advocacy, because we painfully understand how stigma and discrimination elevate HIV vulnerability by preventing men who have sex with men from taking charge of their sexual health.
When our organization was founded in 2006, the global response to HIV only reluctantly acknowledged the devastating toll that HIV was taking on men who have sex with men. Policy makers ignored us and pretended that we didn’t exist. Times have changed, however there is still much to be done. Although the HIV sector has become more willing to acknowledge our communities, incidence is still on the rise among gay and bisexual men in many places. This is because funding for targeted, evidence-informed, and community-led services is on the decline. Making matters worse are deteriorating human rights conditions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide.
To address the escalating incidence of HIV, we must reframe our approach using sexual health and rights as our guiding principles. This means facing the root causes of health disparities head-on. For gay and bisexual men, this includes decriminalizing homosexuality, ending homophobic violence, and combatting stigma and discrimination. It also means redressing economic disparities, challenging gender inequities, and confronting racism – each of which undermines the human rights of gay and bisexual men.
Sadly, sex and sexuality are still considered taboo topics in the HIV sector in many countries – ironic for a virus that is primarily (though not exclusively) transmitted sexually. Silence about sex, sexuality, and sexual health makes it difficult to develop meaningful interventions to address HIV and renders gay and bisexual men invisible. We must therefore break silence about sex, sexuality, and sexual health at every opportunity that we have.
The process of changing our name wasn’t easy. We began by consulting our close partners, community networks, Steering Committee members, and Board of Directors. Their inputs made us realize that including “MSM & HIV” in our name restricted our mission and limited our vision. Our new name liberates us to more directly impact the intersectional issues of health and rights. Our focus on men who have sex with men has not changed. However, our strategies for addressing the unique issues of our diverse communities worldwide are evolving and becoming more nuanced.
The new logo celebrates our rainbow of diversity and our commitment to working in close partnerships with other communities deeply affected by HIV – including sex workers, people who use drugs, and transgender women. The overlapping “M”s are made up of translucent squares, forming a quilted landscape that represents our multi-faceted approach to advocacy. Even so, a lone red diamond remains prominently situated in our new logo, acknowledging that our movement was founded on the blood, sweat, and tears of HIV activists.
The “M” in MPact recognizes our history as an organization focused on men who have sex with men. The “Pact” signifies our promise to collectively address the root causes of sexual health disparities and to unapologetically break silence about sex. Our new name signals our readiness to make an impact on the lives of gay and bisexual men through forward-thinking solutions that address a wide range of health inequities and human rights abuses.
As we begin leaning into our future, MPact’s very first action has been to increase our youth-focus. We are doing this by positioning young gay men into leadership roles within our governance structure. Young gay men (ages 29 and younger) now make up a majority of our international Steering Committee – our highest-level governance body. We have begun programs to mobilize new and progressive advocacy against barriers to sexual health services around the world; and we have committed to assisting in the development of new innovative solutions that respond directly to the unique needs of young gay and bisexual men. This new generation of advocates will help steward our organization’s future.
I hope you share in our excitement and in our renewed sense of urgency about HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and human rights. We are committed to making an MPact and hope you are too!
– George Ayala, MPact Co-Founder and Executive Director
About MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights
MPact (formerly known as MSMGF or The Global Forum on MSM & HIV) was founded in 2006 by a group of activists concerned about the disproportionate HIV disease burden shouldered by gay and bisexual men worldwide. Since our inception, MPact has instigated and supported a global movement to address stigma and discrimination through strengthening public health policies and alleviating funding disparities. MPact conducts advocacy, delivers technical support, and manages sub-grants with community-based organizations that work at the local and country levels. MPact works at the intersection between the sectors of HIV and human rights, and is linked to 120 CBOs across 62 countries, in addition to thousands of activists online.