NGOs unite at the pan-European level to improve HIV prevention and support for men who have sex with men (MSM)
Issues: MSM in Europe remain highly vulnerable with regards to HIV as revealed by the high proportion of MSM among newly diagnosed cases of HIV in many countries, studies revealing a high proportion of MSM engaging in high-risk sexual behaviours as well as alarming trends regarding several other sexually transmitted infections in several countries.
Description: As part of the AIDS ACTION EUROPE partnership, the NGO AIDES organized in Paris, France in June 2007 a pan-European Gay Health Seminar with 45 NGO delegates active in HIV prevention and support with MSM from 21 countries (mostly from Central and Eastern Europe).
Lessons learned: Thanks to our proximity with local and various MSM communities, local NGOs play an essential and multifaceted role in the frontline of the responses to the HIV epidemic among MSM.
(1) informing in targeted and tailored ways about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (promoting risk-reduction strategies including the use of condoms and water-based lubricants)
(2) working with behavioural researchers to document precisely the specific risks faced by MSM
(3) enabling the mobilisation at all levels of gay men living with HIV
(4) experimenting always with innovative approaches such as internet-based projects that reach very large numbers of users of gay online forums.
However, the sustainability of such essential health services remains uncertain in many countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Many governments remain most reluctant to commit to improving the health of MSM and many NGO projects with MSM depend upon international funding that – overall – is decreasing in the region.
Next steps: We need to more effectively use the potential of existing networks and institutions working for MSM health and thus overcome the political and financial hurdles. AIDS ACTION EUROPE along with other networks will actively integrate the health of MSM as an advocacy priority.