Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Coalition to Address MSM Issues in Africa

via Behind the Mask, by Simangele Mzizi

In their effort to step up the fight against the high HIV prevalence amongst men who have sex with other men (MSM) some concerned men have formed a coalition titled African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) aiming to increase visibility of issues affecting MSM in Africa.

Established in March this year, “AMSHeR was formed to strengthen the capacity of national agencies and individuals working to improve legislation and programming related to MSM’s sexual and reproductive health”, said Joel Nana, Executive Officer for AMSHeR.

The coalition consists of 15 organisations from 13 African countries working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, mainstream HIV and human rights organisations that work to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV.

“We intend to extend invitations to other countries and organisations to ensure the visibility and representativeness of all aspects of MSM and transgender lives in the continent”, Nana said.

Currently AMSHeR is hosted by OUT LGBT Well-being, a South African LGBT health organisation based in Pretoria.

As a regional coalition of MSM and LGBTI led organisations, AMSHeR also aims to advocate for the elimination of discriminatory laws and policies affecting MSM.

Nana pointed out that, AMSHeR’s development process has been divided into two phases and the first phase started on 1 October this year and will end on 30 March next year.

 “During this period, AMSHeR intends to develop its management mechanisms, establish its administrative systems, acquire a legal identity, develop its strategic plan and strengthen its funding base for the implementation phase or second phase”, said Nana.

According to a 2006-2007 HIV and AIDS report by UNAIDS to the UN General Assembly Special Session, MSM are a group that has long been overlooked with no documented evidence to confirm their existence.

Meanwhile studies show that research on MSM in Africa has been limited and largely focused on the heterosexual spread of HIV and as a result leaves MSM highly stigmatised and hard to reach, even though this population is particularly vulnerable to HIV infection.

The executive committee of the coalition includes Samuel Matsikure from the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, Steave Nemande from Alternatives-Cameroun, David Kuria from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Chivuli Ukwimi from Zambia.

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