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MSMGF, Johns Hopkins University unveil new gay men’s health curriculum

The curriculum aims to reduce homophobia, improve cultural competency, and enhance clinical skill within global health sector.

AIDS 2014The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) and Johns Hopkins University have launched a new international training curriculum designed to give healthcare providers the cultural competency and clinical skills necessary to meet the health needs of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Following the announcement of the World Health Organization’s new Consolidated Guidelines for Key Populations, the curriculum is also intended to serve as a critical vehicle to ensure the reach of WHO’s efforts at the country level.

Consisting of nine modules and covering a range of clinically relevant topics, the curriculum’s content was shaped and guided by a group of 15 technical experts, scientists, physicians, psychologists, program implementers and community members from around the world. The introductory modules are designed to help providers gain a broad understanding of the contexts in which MSM navigate their healthcare needs. Subsequent modules offer specific provider-led strategies for increasing access to and quality of services, such as creating an enabling clinical environment, taking an appropriate sexual history, and managing HIV and other STIs among MSM effectively.

Available for download here as a set of training tools on the MSMGF’s website, the nine modules of the MSMGF-JHU curriculum are:

  1. Understanding Gay Men and Other MSM
  2. Sexuality and Health
  3. Barriers to Health
  4. Creating a Friendlier Environment
  5. Promoting Mental Health
  6. Taking a Sexual History
  7. Supporting Gay Men and Other MSM Who Use Drugs and Alcohol
  8. Interventions for HIV and STI Prevention
  9. Clinical Care for HIV and Other STIs

“General medical education curricula around the world often do not include sexual health in their training, let alone the oft-tabooed subject of homosexuality,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the HIV Department at WHO. “This widespread deficiency in medical education, and the fact that 77 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality, continue to leave healthcare providers completely ill-equipped to address the unique needs of MSM respectfully and without prejudice. The curriculum for healthcare providers developed by the MSMGF and Johns Hopkins University is a truly commendable effort with the immense potential to complement our recent efforts here at the World Health Organization around addressing the HIV epidemic among gay men and other MSM.”

The MSMGF-JHU curriculum underwent pilot testing earlier this year among healthcare providers in Harare, Zimbabwe, supported by partner organization Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). The evaluation of the pilot training revealed important increases in the proportion of healthcare providers who reported: feeling comfort providing friendly sexual health services to MSM (49.4% increase); discussing anal sex with clients (25% increase); and disagreeing that homosexuality deteriorates morals (47.6% increase).

“We were delighted when asked to join forces in the roll-out of the pilot in Harare, which resulted in important lessons learned for everyone involved,” said Samuel Matsikure, health programme manager for GALZ. “From our perspective, we saw enormous gains not only in the level of interest that such a training garnered among Zimbabwean physicians, but also in the measurable changes in attitude and knowledge even among those physicians who were previously unaware of MSM needs.”

“Many training tools exist around the world for training healthcare providers on MSM sexual health,” said Dr. George Ayala, executive director of the MSMGF. “However, in many parts of the world these resources are scarce, and there remains a great need for engagement and training the health sector. We hope that this comprehensive tool will serve as a valuable foundation in places where these basic need exists, and act as a complementary resource to build on provider training efforts that are already underway in other regions.”

Individuals and organizations can register on the MSMGF website and obtain free and immediate access to the nine-module curriculum for facilitators and accompanying PowerPoint slides for use by both facilitators and participants.

The MSMGF-JHU curriculum was made possible by the ‘Bridging the Gaps’ program led by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Aids Fonds.

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is a network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates eyeing to ensure coverage of and equitable access to HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM worldwide.

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