The purple sky network: a regional partnership approach to the HIV epidemic among MSM
Issues: Recent surveys have found high rates of HIV infection (6%-32%) and risk behaviors among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS), an area including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos PDR, and Yunnan and Guangxi provinces (China). However, HIV programs reaching MSM in the region are limited and as of 2005, MSM were not included as a high-risk group in any GMS country’s national AIDS plan.
Description: Key donor agencies partnered with local and international non-government organizations (NGOs), multilateral organizations, and government representatives in the GMS to develop a Regional MSM Network (Purple Sky Network), which aims to mobilize leadership, and enhance collaboration among implementers. Government and NGO participants developed regional and country action plans. A Regional Coordination Secretariat was established, and a Board comprising representatives from NGOs and multilateral organizations provides advice and strategic direction to the Secretariat in supporting the PSN members in the GMS.
Lessons learned: A regional, multi-level partnership approach can facilitate tangible national commitment and the development of joint national plans for HIV prevention and care among MSM. As a result, resources for HIV prevention among MSM have increased, MSM issues can now be included in high level dialogue among policy makers and there is increasing inclusion of MSM at all levels of programming. Network workshops facilitated collaboration among country stakeholders and sharing of experiences and ideas among countries. Each GMS country and the provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi in China have set up or strengthened an MSM working group with representatives from government, NGOs, and MSM communities, and now recognize MSM as a high-risk group in their national/provincial AIDS plans.
Next steps: As policy goals have been achieved, the Network plans to facilitate program implementation in GMS countries through enhanced technical support, continued advocacy for more resources and sharing lessons learned within the PSN.
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