Addressing the sexual health needs of men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region using a participatory community assessment approach

Published: July 22, 2010

Addressing the sexual health needs of men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region using a participatory community assessment approach

T.Z. Kisserli

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, The Field Programmes-Africa, Brighton and Hove, United Kingdom

Issues: MSM are largely invisible in the MENA region. A regional programme has developed and adapted a participatory community assessment (PCA) approach to meet the sexual health needs of men engaging in high risk sexual behaviour. This approach has been adapted to initiate work with other highly vulnerable groups identified as drivers of the epidemic, such as IDU, PLHA and MSM DU.
Description: The International HIV/AIDS Alliance initiated a pilot project in the MENA region in 2004, in partnership with six NGOs in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Lebanon to addressing priority sexual health needs of MSM. Social and religious taboos and stigma and discrimination lead to most men concealing their sexual orientation and/or practices, especially from health workers. The PCA approach enabled NGOs to engage with the MSM community, identifying their priority needs with them, and strengthen them to develop and implement tailored programmes. Since the pilot phase of the project, PCA’s have been carried out in a number of new sites, successfully scaling up activities.
Lessons learned:

   1. The involvement of the target community in the PCA process is key to building a strong relationship with the CSOs, ensuring ownership and legitimacy of the work.
   2. The PCA is a tool to identify community leaders from high risk groups and build their capacity.
   3. The approach enables the integration of prevention activities for MSM into the broader HIV NGO portfolio.
   4. The PCA helps civil society organisations build their knowledge and experience of new high risk groups, increasing their range of HIV/STI prevention services.

Next steps:

   1. To learn from the experiences of the regional programme and support partners to strengthen their response and engage with other vulnerable groups
   2. To support the regional network (RANAA) to introduce the approach in other countries and scale up the approach for more regional coverage.

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