Improving access to HIV testing, prevention and care for MSM, WSW and TGs across the Middle East/North Africa through investment in grassroots LGBT civil society

Published: July 22, 2010

Improving access to HIV testing, prevention and care for MSM, WSW and TGs across the Middle East/North Africa through investment in grassroots LGBT civil society

M. French, G. Azzi

The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), Beirut, Lebanon

Issues: Strong civil society is needed to respond to rights and protections needs of MSM, WSW and TGs across the Middle East/North Africa (MENA); with improved rights and protections, these sexual minorities will benefit from improved access to HIV testing, prevention and care. While strong civil society will improve HIV service provision, grassroots activists operate with a considerable lack in capacity and access to financial resources, limiting work they are able to accomplish.
Description: The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) was created to invest heavily in grassroots LGBT civil society. Investments support the movement for sexual minorities rights and protections, which in turn reduce social stigma surrounding sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI). Reduced stigma improves access to HIV services for sexual minorities.
AFE invests in grassroots LGBT civil society by providing:

    * Capacity building
          o Providing targeted capacity building initiatives
          o Facilitating regional learning exchanges between grassroots activists
          o Coordinating internships with established NGOs working on SOGI
    * Core funding
          o There are few grant mechanisms allowing nascent activist groups and organizations access to basic operational funding. AFE addresses this need, acting as a regionally-based funding channel, applying for funds from large donors and regranting to activists in MENA.
    * Emergency assistance
          o Coordinating and documenting emergency responses for LGBT human rights defenders and non-activist individuals

Lessons learned: As demonstrated through the work of Helem (an AFE partner), a human rights approach is considered a “best practice” for addressing e in MENA. AFE’s work regionalizes this “best practice,” adapting and replicating it across the region.
Next steps: AFE will dialogue with donors focused on basic HIV prevention and care to observe successes of both AFE’s current partners and Helem. AFE will use these successes to broaden donors’ funding priorities to include comprehensive human rights approaches when addressing HIV.

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