The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF)’s Youth Reference Group (YRG) is proud to unveil its Action Plan to support the health and human rights of young men who have sex with men (YMSM) over the next three years. Released on World AIDS Day, the plan details goals, strategies, and priority activities to be carried out from 2015-2017.
Originally assembled in 2009 to advise the MSMGF on issues related to YMSM populations, the MSMGF YRG is the only body working at the global level devoted specifically to supporting the health and rights of YMSM. Today, the MSMGF YRG includes 18 prominent YMSM activists working at the global, regional, and local level around the world, with representatives from Armenia, Egypt, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Peru, Singapore, and the US.
The World AIDS Day theme of “Close the Gap” is intended as a call for all people to be able to access HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services. Studies show that YMSM continue to face significant barriers in accessing basic health services, including HIV prevention and treatment.
The MSMGF’s 2012 Global Men’s Health and Rights survey (n=5779 MSM; 2491 aged 30 and below) indicated that only 33% of YMSM surveyed reported that low-cost condoms were easily accessible. Even lower percentages of YMSM reported easy access to low-cost lubricants (18%), HIV education materials for MSM (9%), and HIV risk reduction programs for MSM (7%). Of participants living with HIV, nearly half of YMSM with a CD4 count below 350 were not engaged in treatment (44%). Findings also indicated that 20% of YMSM surveyed had no income and 30% had no stable housing, and that YMSM experienced significantly higher levels of homophobia and violence compared to older MSM. These findings were outlined in the MSMGF YRG’s policy brief, “Young Men Who Have Sex with Men: Health, Access, & HIV”.
In order to address these gaps, the MSMGF YRG’s Action Plan specifies actions in three domains – advocacy, research, and programs and services – on which the YRG will focus its energy for the next three years. The Action Plan also offers practical examples of efforts that other service provision, research, and advocacy entities can undertake to meet the needs of YMSM appropriately. The Action Plan was designed to be a useful guide not only for the MSMGF YRG and the MSMGF as a whole, but for any organization looking to support YMSM at the global, regional, or local level.
“Both young people and MSM face unique barriers to accessing HIV services respectively,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of the MSMGF. “Young MSM face the barriers of both populations, as well as a number of vulnerabilities that are unique to YMSM. As HIV rates among YMSM continue to climb around the world, it is clear that we cannot rely on strategies developed for general youth or general MSM to meet the needs of YMSM. We must address YMSM specifically, and we must do it now.”
The YRG Action Plan 2015-2017 can be found on the MSMGF’s website.