The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) has launched a new webpage for the Speaking Out Initiative, an international collaborative program to fight HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people by supporting grassroots activists to reduce stigma, discrimination, and violence faced by these groups in their respective countries. Launched on this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the new webpage increases access to Speaking Out’s advocacy toolkits in multiple languages and provides detailed information on how activists can bring Speaking Out to their own region.
The new website can be accessed at www.msmgf.org/speakingout.
“We are thrilled to launch the Speaking Out website on this year’s IDAHO,”said Dr. George Ayala, executive director of the MSMGF. “Today, people all over the world will stand together in solidarity against homophobia and transphobia. The more we learn about the HIV epidemic, the clearer the connection between stigma and discrimination and the spread of HIV becomes. We cannot increase access to HIV services without addressing the impact of homophobia and transphobia, and that is what the Speaking Out Initiative strives to do.”
The Speaking Out Initiative begins with an in-depth assessment of local advocacy capacity, followed by a collaborative effort between the MSMGF and local activists to adapt the Speaking Out toolkit to local conditions and languages. The adapted toolkits are used to conduct multiple levels of tailored trainings for local advocates, followed by an invitation for Speaking Out graduates to develop homegrown advocacy initiatives that are eligible for small grants funding from the Speaking Out program. Speaking Out is currently running in Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
At present, the MSMGF is funding two locally conceived and executed advocacy initiatives, called “Breakthrough Initiatives,” led by graduates from the Speaking Out training in Honduras. The first Breakthrough Initiative involves an advocacy campaign to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Honduran HIV anti-discrimination law, and the second focuses on advocacy for the inclusion of LGBT rights in the Honduran government’s public policy Social Protection Programs.
“The Speaking Out Initiative is part of a larger effort to equip grassroots organizations with the information and resources they need to hold governments and policy-makers accountable for doing quality, rights-based HIV work. This includes addressing homophobia, transphobia, and other social drivers that fuel the epidemic. From laws that criminalize homosexuality, deny gender identity protections, and punish HIV non-disclosure to policies that make it impossible for LGBT-led organizations to register legally – homophobia and transphobia remain major obstacles to health and rights for our communities,” said Dr. Ayala.
Data from the 2012 Global Men’s Health and Rights Study (GMHR), a multilingual survey of over 6,000 MSM from more than 160 countries, showed that only one third of MSM surveyed could easily access condoms, lubricant, and HIV testing. The survey revealed that homophobia was significantly associated with reduced access to HIV services, and that community engagement and comfort with health service providers were each significantly associated with increased access to HIV services.
“When LGBT people everywhere continue to suffer violent attacks and discriminatory treatment, it is crucial to expose and address the problems of social discrimination and HIV in our communities,” said Omar Baños, MSMGF policy field initiatives manager. “This webpage is an important opportunity for anyone working on MSM and transgender advocacy to connect with local and regional partners on a grassroots level to exchange ideas and get involved in the Speaking Out Initiative.”
The new Speaking Out webpage provides a unique opportunity for advocates to explore opportunities and strategies for advocacy work in hostile environments. The website features downloadable PDF versions of the Speaking Out toolkits in English, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese, as well as detailed information about the process of toolkit adaptation, implementation, and trainings in each region. The webpage also showcases video testimonials from MSM and transgender advocates sharing their experiences about the challenges faced by MSM and transgender people around the world.
“On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we must remember how damaging homophobia and transphobia can be,” said Dr. Ayala. “Through the Speaking Out Initiative and new Speaking Out webpage, we will continue to work to increase awareness and support local MSM and transgender people to lay claim to their rights and get involved in the fight against homophobia and transphobia. Our victory over HIV depends on it.”
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is a network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM.