amfAR Launches GMT Initiative to Combat HIV/AIDS, Stigma Among Gay Men, Other Men Who have Sex with Men, and Transgender Individuals

Published: October 15, 2012

For Immediate Release 
Media Contact: Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager: (212) 806-1602 cub.barrett@amfar.org
 

 EW YORK, October 15, 2012—Building upon its successful MSM Initiative, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Monday launched the GMT Initiative, aimed at curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic among gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender individuals—collectively referred to as “GMT.”

The new name reflects a more strategic focus for the program and an opportunity to capitalize on recent advances in the science of reducing HIV vulnerability among GMT. It also recognizes that, since its inception in 2007, the program has not confined itself solely to MSM.

“For more than five years, amfAR’s MSM Initiative has been a global leader in confronting the AIDS epidemic among gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals —populations disproportionately affected by the epidemic in every corner of the world,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “In renaming the initiative, we are also recommitting ourselves to achieve broader long-term results. Our central goal is to help create an AIDS-free generation among gay men, other MSM, and transgender individuals.”

Since launching the MSM Initiative in July 2007, amfAR has made 184 Community Awards totaling more than US$3.3 million to support 140 frontline organizations serving GMT in 72 countries. As the program evolved, many awards went to groups focusing exclusively on transgender individuals, said GMT Initiative Director Kent Klindera.

“We’re taking the best of what we’ve learned during the past five years and applying that knowledge, as well as new science, to have a greater impact on the global AIDS epidemic,” Klindera said. “We’re strengthening our program to challenge public health and other social service systems to better serve the needs of GMT, while continuing to support vibrant community-led programming. We know from experience that larger, systemic changes are best achieved through empowering local communities.”

The GMT Initiative will focus on several core areas:

    Funding and more formally evaluating combination HIV program models that can be scaled up
    Emphasizing the connection between rights-based advocacy and successful service delivery
    Supporting targeted advocacy to influence government and donor policies
    Strengthening the capacity of GMT-led organizations to collaborate with and expand access to appropriate government-funded HIV programs
    Supporting epidemiological, resource tracking, and other research to advocate for GMT-related health services

Like its predecessor, the GMT Initiative will continue to award grants and build the capacity of community organizations working to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS in five regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America. Community groups use the funding for a wide array of projects, including programs that focus on changing attitudes, building skills of health providers to better serve GMT, promoting testing and other interventions that maximize the benefits of HIV medications, and working with local government officials to increase attention to HIV in these populations and to change laws that criminalize same-sex sexual behavior.  The GMT Initiative is supported in part by Aids Fonds of the Netherlands, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation, and ViiV Healthcare Positive Action.

HIV prevalence is high for GMT around the world. A July 2012 analysis published in The Lancet shows that 25 percent of gay men and other MSM in the Caribbean are living with HIV, while 18 percent of MSM in Africa are infected. The few existing studies of transgender women have shown HIV prevalence of up to 68 percent in some countries. Additionally, in much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the highest rates of HIV infection in any risk group are among GMT.

According to a January 2012 analysis by amfAR and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights (CPHHR) at Johns Hopkins University, funding to address the epidemic among GMT is grossly insufficient, and resources intended for this population are often diverted away from GMT-related services.

“There is a real need for the kind of work the GMT Initiative is funding,” Klindera said. “We’ve already made a tremendous impact through our MSM Initiative, and we hope our new focus through the GMT Initiative will save more lives, change policies, and help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

About amfAR

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $340 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

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