Support for advocacy initiatives in 6 Pacific Island Countries – low HIV prevalence settings through the Pacific sexual diversity network

Published: August 1, 2008

 Sexual diversity as an impediment to scaling up to universal access: support for advocacy initiatives in 6 Pacific Island Countries – low HIV prevalence settings through the Pacific sexual diversity network

Issues: MSM are not adequately represented on National AIDS Councils in the Pacific or in the decision making processes of HIV and AIDS strategic plans and implementation activities. Where they are represented, their voices and concerns are not heard or taken into consideration.

Description: MSM are being identified as one of the vulnerable and at risk populations in all (14 countries) Pacific national strategic plans and policies. However, there is lack of concrete activities implemented to address concerns and behaviours of MSM. Funding from national budgets towards HIV does not address activities geared towards MSM´s sexual health.

Lessons learned: Pacific MSM identities include transgender individuals, feminine-acting MSM, their masculine-acting partners, gay identifying men and men who have situational sex with each other. All of this diversity is in theory covered by the term MSM, which focuses on behaviour rather than identity, unfortunately in some locations even this broad term has become associated with single groups-often those that are most visible (feminine acting MSM) or most politically active (e.g., gay-identifying MSM).

Next steps: In order for Pacific MSM communities to respond effectively and appropriately to HIV, there is a need identified by MSM organisations to strengthen their organisational governance and management skills.
The challenges in developing MSM programming are significant. First many MSM do not identify themselves and so are hidden from MSM specific programming. This group includes most masculine-acting MSM, who may view sexual encounters with transgender individuals as heterosexual. MSM programming is inhibited by stigma associated with male-male sex.
There´s a need to look at opportunities in each country in its own context and find ‘champions’ who will help us make our needs known and engage the humanity in Pacific ethos to be more inclusive of all its citizens regardless of sexual orientation and identity.

-Abstract available at link below-

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