“There are very few venues for different sectors of the global MSM response to come together from around the world to strategize on a collective way forward,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Officer of the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF). “This was an opportunity for grassroots advocates, service providers, researchers, regional MSM networks, multilaterals and major funders to talk face to face about where we need to go as a global movement and the most effective way to get there. The results are quite significant.”
The strategic plan, released earlier today, lays out five priority areas to maximize impact in MSM communities across the globe: promoting health; advancing human rights; improving information and research; increasing investment; and facilitating partnership and engagement with local advocates. Each of these priority areas is to be addressed using three primary strategies: monitoring community-level experience; initiating and supporting advocacy; and strengthening community systems.
“This meeting has come at a crucial juncture in the course of the global epidemic,” said Othman Mellouk, a member of the MSMGF’s Executive Committee. “HIV rates are still unacceptably high among MSM in every world region, yet the response is extremely under-resourced and program coverage is abysmally low. The full spectrum of the global MSM response must work together to meet these challenges with a coordinated strategy. This plan is a rally call for that kind of action.”
MSM bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic around the world, with infection rates among MSM passing 20% in countries as diverse as Thailand, Mexico and Senegal. Despite the clear need for programs and resources, less than 2% of international funding for HIV prevention is targeted at MSM and fewer than 40 out of 184 countries report to UNAIDS that they have national targets for HIV program coverage for MSM. Current data indicates that fewer than one in ten MSM are reached by HIV prevention programs worldwide.
The new document will guide the MSMGF’s work to respond to this crisis over the next five years in coordination with MSM movements that have emerged at the country and regional level. Building on significant recent developments in research and policy, the plan aims to ensure that the MSMGF is investing time and resources in programs that are highly effective, align with the needs of regional networks, and support the work of grassroots implementers across diverse global contexts.
“In the coming years, the MSMGF will be engaged in a number of collaborations and in-country technical support initiatives across Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East,” said Dr. Ayala. “This plan provides our organization with a comprehensive blueprint for effective action, a strategy that has use beyond the MSMGF for all sectors of the global MSM response. The completion of the document is not the end of a process, but rather the beginning of a continuing global dialogue on how we can work together for the health and human rights of MSM around the world.”