World AIDS Day is a day of reflection. There have been great advances in the HIV sector and reasons to be optimistic, but there is much work ahead. We must continue to vigilantly advocate for men who have sex with men (MSM) and other key populations (sex workers, people who inject drugs and transgender people) at highest risk of HIV and often the most underserved.
MSM are much more likely to be HIV-positive but less likely to have access to safe technically competent HIV services than the general population. HIV prevention and treatment programs still struggle to tailor services to MSM; and the ones that do severely under-resource them. Rapid changes in the HIV sector are creating new opportunities while also placing additional demands on policy makers, program planners, service providers, and MSM advocates.
Among other issues, HIV responders must grapple with: new HIV prevention, care, support, and treatment guidelines; and indisputable evidence of the prevention and health benefits of anti-retroviral medications initiated early and prophylactically. These developments are occurring against a backdrop of protracted stigma, discrimination, criminalization, and violence faced by MSM on a daily basis.
It is in this context that MSMGF is revamping/revitalizing its role in the HIV sector and is calling on activists from around the world to keep the pressure on, and to not remain silent. The next three to five years are critical. To achieve accelerated HIV prevention, care, and treatment goals set by world leaders, to optimize the benefits of anti-retroviral medications, and to mitigate ongoing violence directed to MSM, we must acknowledge that the only remaining, truly global, and ineffectually addressed HIV epidemic is happening among MSM.
What can you do now? Register for the international AIDS Conference 2016 in Durban, South Africa on July 18-22 where MSMGF will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary (MSMGF was founded at AIDS 2006 in Toronto). The forthcoming conference in Durban is the perfect springboard for reinvigorating advocacy and calling for a scientific research agenda that is aligned with our unfinished business concerning HIV among MSM worldwide. You can make your voice is heard by taking part in conference and our preconference on July 16th. Registration for our preconference opens in a few weeks.
MSMGF has worked since 2006 to encourage targeted, tailored, better resourced, and rights- based sexual health services for gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide through its advocacy and technical support work. As a global network, MSMGF has successfully influenced HIV responses at the local level through shifts in global-level policies and has effectively utilized public health as an entry point for advancing the human rights of LGBT people. MSMGF currently supports programs in 15 countries.