The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), have announced the recipients of their fifth round of Africa community awards, which aim to curb the AIDS epidemic among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and men who have sex with men.
Designed to provide funding for HIV and AIDS prevention, testing and treatment, the awards of between $10,000 and $20,000 (€7,610 to €15,220) go to groups that conduct outreach and advocacy, often in countries where same-sex sexual activity is illegal. The awards are given through amfAR’s MSM Initiative.
Included among the seven prize recipients this year are Espoi Vie Togo (EVT), a group which aims to set up a facility for LGBT people and other men who have sex with men in Togo, where same-sex sexual activity can lead to up to three years in prison. The facility will provide psychosocial support, HIV testing and counselling within a safe space.
EVT coordinator of programs Yves Kugbe said: ‘Since 2008, Espoir Vie Togo has worked with the MSM community to address HIV prevention and treatment services, but we realized we also needed to incorporate psychological and social care into them to fully serve the community’s needs.’
Crucially, many of the MSM Initiative’s projects are structured to pass on knowledge and awareness. Health Options for Young Men on HIV, AIDS and STIs in Nairobi, Kenya will train sex workers living with HIV in prevention and treatment. The idea is for them to then pass this information on to other sex workers, acting as peer educators.
Another project that will be funded through the awards is Mouvement pour les Libertés Individuelles, which aims to increase participation of gay and bisexual men in discussion of HIV and AIDS policy in Bujumbura, Burundi.
In Lilongwe, Malawi, Center for the Development of People will receive $20,000 (€15,220) to train peer educators on HIV prevention, distribute condoms and train health centre workers on how to provide MSM-friendly services.
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, WhyCan’tWeGetMarried.com will conduct a study into the amount of knowledge on HIV and AIDS in the area. They will then use their findings to consult with decision makers on improving support for MSM and transgender people in the country.
Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, in Johannesburg, South Africa, will use the arts to educate deaf men who have gay sex and transgender people on HIV-related issues.
Finally, Icebreakers Uganada will train peer leaders to work with decision makers on addressing discrimination in the country. They will also use holistic methods to educate gay men about HIV, as well as providing counselling, testing, rights awareness and online outreach.
amfAR boss Kevin Robert Frost said: ‘There is continuing concern that the social climate in many African countries is increasingly homophobic, so the groups we work with through our men who have sex with men initiative are not only doing vital work, but also very dangerous work.
‘We know that HIV and other sexually transmitted infections thrive in these kinds of discriminatory environments, so the work our partners do in Africa is critically important.’