The MSMGF Secretariat collaborates with MSMGF members around the world to bring you reports on recent developments concerning the health and human rights of MSM. The reports are meant to share insights on MSM health and rights in different regions, as well as increase awareness within our global community about who our members are and the work they do.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In Conversation with Jake Sobo from "My Life on PrEP"

This week the MSMGF Blog talks to Jake Sobo, creator of the weekly column, “My Life on PrEP.” At a time when few other channels candidly discussed the use of Truvada for HIV prevention (pre-exposure prophylaxis, or “PrEP”), Jake’s honest and sex-positive approach helped shift conversations surrounding new prevention technology in the United States. Jake discusses why he started the blog, the public’s response, and what he’s doing now.



Were you surprised by the response the series received?

When I started writing "My Life on PrEP” a year and a half ago, it was a barren landscape in terms of people talking openly and honestly about PrEP. The few people that were talking about it were desperately trying to stay "on message" and pretend like only guys with poz boyfriends or guys who also use condoms were going to be using PrEP. I knew immediately that this message was Polyanna bullshit, and so I started speaking out about my own experience. That upsets people -- we'd all rather keep our heads in the sand and pretend like gay men are all using condoms and everything is just sunshine and rainbows. The truth is that condoms are clearly failing at the community level, and we desperately need new interventions to help keep guys negative. PrEP is one intervention that could make a big difference, but we've got to speak frankly about sex -- gay sex, no less -- and that makes many people deeply uncomfortable. So I knew that I would be stirring up some intense emotions with this column -- that was my hope and intent.

What was the most surprising conversation generated by My Life on PrEP?

I think the moment I was most caught off-guard was when a reader compared me in their comment to Bobby Brown indirectly murdering Whitney Houston. I nearly died laughing! But it was a telling moment. To them, I was "promoting" unsafe sex and thereby murdering young gay men. The truth is that I don't need to promote not using condoms. The evidence is clear: many gay men are already not using them, and we need to fess up to that reality if we want to get serious about prevention.

What do you believe is the most effective way to teach people about risk? How should we shape prevention messages? 

Obviously, this is the million dollar question. For me, the three pillars of prevention have always been testing, treatment, and non-judgmental sex education. Communities have the right to decide what kinds of HIV prevention work best for them, but they obviously need to be given accurate and sex-positive information to inform those decisions. I have serious ethical questions about the continued harassment by health practitioners to clients they perceive as doing HIV prevention "wrong." People do their best, and for many people, HIV prevention just is not a top priority. If they need to have sex for money, or need to keep their partner for economic reasons, preventing infection might not be the primary motivation guiding their sexual practices. They also may just not like condoms, even though they understand them to be effective at preventing HIV. People have a right to make those choices. So I support efforts to educate and raise awareness of critical issues in public health, but the kind of shaming and strong-arming that goes on makes me and countless others at the receiving end of those efforts distrustful and hostile to future outreach efforts. That's counterproductive.

What is the relevance of My Life on PrEP in light of bigger-picture prevention work?

What I have tried to do is cut through the clinical pussyfooting that plagues HIV prevention for gay men and is largely the product of AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) increasingly being muzzled by their funders (namely, the CDC and state health departments). If gay men can't talk about the reality of getting fucked, pleasure, or harm reduction strategies rather than complete risk elimination, then we might as well close down shop as preventionists. That's not prevention. It's propaganda that does more to serve the interests of those whose jobs are on the line than it does the communities such efforts are allegedly intended to serve. Sadly, that's what much of the work in prevention looks like these days. It's clinical, detached from the reality of our lives, and has virtually no impact on the epidemic. In many cases I actually believe that it could be doing more harm than good. Apart from treatment and testing -- which are obviously critically important, core components -- but apart from clinical care and screening, what do ASOs have to offer prevention? Increasingly, the answer is nothing. That's a tragedy that should make everyone angry. 

What’s next for Jake Sobo?

I wound down the “My Life on PrEP” series when it became clear that there were others picking up the torch and running with it. Josh Kruger started writing on PrEP, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s “My PrEP Experience” blog blew up, and more generally I just started seeing my arguments being taken up by other writers. That was immensely rewarding. But the time had come for me to move on from PrEP, so over the summer I launched a new column on San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s “BETA Blog” titled “Promiscuous Gay Nerd.” This new column is more broadly focused on gay sex, HIV, and stigma – all from the perspective of a research scientist and proud slut. Check it out!



Jake Sobo has worked in the world of HIV prevention for nearly a decade. He previously published a 19-part series documenting his experiences on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), “My Life on PrEP,” for Positive Frontiers magazine, which was picked up by Manhunt, translated into French, and widely read in the HIV prevention world. He has spent the better part of his adult life having as much sex as possible while trying to avoid contracting HIV. You can find Jake continuing his insightful commentary in a new column on San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s “BETA Blog” titled “Promiscuous Gay Nerd.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Donny Reyes: “Most crimes against LGBT people are lost in limbo”

As the David Kato Vision & Voice Award (DKVVA) begins to celebrate its third year, we continue to receive hundreds of nominations of phenomenal activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights around the world. With the announcement of this 2014 winner coming up on February 14th at the renowned Teddy Awards in Berlin, we are honored to introduce you to the 5 incredible people who have been shortlisted for this year’s award.

This week we are thrilled to present prominent LGBTI activist Donny Reyes. Donny is the director of the LGBTI Rights group Asociacion Arcoiris (Rainbow Association) in Honduras. Established in 2003, the Rainbow Association trains human rights defenders and promotes HIV prevention. Despite numerous threats and targeted attacks for his advocacy, Donny Reyes continues his work to raise the voices of the LGBTI community in Honduras. The segment below is taken from an interview published in 2010 by Amnesty International.



Photo Credit: Front Line Defenders

Before the political crisis blew up in Honduras, Donny Reyes was trying to put his country on the map internationally, working to raise awareness of the abuses and discrimination suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people. 

But as the Central American nation slid into political turmoil, human rights were sidelined. 
“We had started talks with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with members of the police and some members of the government for the investigation [of crimes against the LGBT community] and access to some public services. This stopped after the coup d’etat,” Donny explained. 

According to information published by the organization Donny works for, the Rainbow Association, killings of transsexual people have also increased sharply since the coup d’etat. 

Research conducted by Rainbow found that there were 12 killings of gay, lesbian, trans sexual and transgender people in Honduras in the whole of 2008. In the four months since the coup d’etat, that figure reached 14. 

“These are the violent deaths and crimes that we have documented. It doesn't include the many others we don’t know of - the ones that are left in impunity, lost in limbo,” said Donny.

The activist – who was himself a victim of abuse at the hands of the security forces in 2007 – said the most worrying point of the crisis was during the state of emergency in the first week after the coup d’etat, when curfews were implemented in different areas of the country.

During that time, at least three members of the LGBT community were killed. Fabio Zamora was shot in the head while he was working in a market. Marion Cardenas was shot in the forehead on 29 June. Vicky Hernandez died the same way in San Pedro Sula, during the curfew on 28 June. 

“During the state of emergency you could feel a climate of fear, collective panic. Nothing could move here if it hadn’t been authorized by the armed forces, particularly the army. When the state of emergency was declared that day, everybody just ran home to hide and find refuge. What the authorities would do that night was nobody’s responsibility.”

You can access to the original article here

Since 2010, Donny has continued to combat discrimination against the LGBTI community of Honduras. Recognizing the need for a safe and secure space, Asociacion Arcoiris created “Rainbow House,” a home in Comayagüela that trains community leaders and acts as a base for HIV prevention outreach and peer support. At Rainbow House, Arcoiris conducts regular workshops to train young LGBT people and sex workers in human rights, focusing on issues such as conflict resolution, domestic violence, discrimination, and safer sex practices. Graduates go on to replicate the trainings among peer networks in Comayagüela’s LGBT and sex worker communities.

In 2013, Asociacion Arcoiris’s offices were targeted with multiple break-ins and thefts. With very little support from the police following these incidents, Asociacion Arcoiris must continue their advocacy work despite longstanding intimidation and harassment against the organization.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Diane Rodriguez: Breaking New Ground and Making History

As the David Kato Vision & Voice Award begins to celebrate its third year, we continue to receive hundreds of nominations of phenomenal activists for LGBTI rights around the world. With the announcement of this 2014 winner coming up on February 14th at the renowned Teddy Awards in Berlin, we are honored to introduce you to the 5 incredible people who have been shortlisted for this year’s award.

This week we are thrilled to present Diane Rodriguez from Ecuador. For the past 18 years Rodriguez has fearlessly fought for LGBTI inclusion and equality in Ecuador. She has overcome stigma and discrimination to make Ecuadorian history as the first transgender person to legally change her name, setting a legal precedent. She is prepared to continue fighting for LGBTI rights until they are fully recognized in Ecuador and across the globe. 





Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano is one of Ecuador’s leading human rights activists. She has worked relentlessly for LGBTI rights over the past 18 years and now acts as the director of Silueta X Asociación, an advocacy group that fights for transgender rights in Ecuador. Diane Rodriguez incorporates a trans-feminist ideology into all of her work, integrating transgender discourses with feminist discourses and boldly critiquing capitalism, consumerism, and patriarchal constructs. 

In 2008 Diane Rodríguez founded Silueta X Asociación, a community-based advocacy organization that she continues to lead today. Since its inception, Silueta X has become one the most prominent organizations in Ecuador, providing a platform where Diane Rodríguez works with other community members to promote respect for transgender human rights and improve access to health services.

In 2009 Diane Rodríguez broke new ground in Ecuador after being told by her local registry office that she could not legally change her name from male to female. She sued the Civil Registry in February of that year, citing the anti-discrimination passages in Article 2 of Ecuador’s new constitution.  Diane Rodriguez took the case to the Office of the Ombudsman, which in turn took it up with the director of the National Registry Office. This resulted in Diane Rodriguez and four other members of Silueta X receiving new identity cards within a week of the appeal. Thanks to the precedent set by this case, any female or male transgender person can now legally change their name in Ecuador. Although allowed a legal name change, transgender people are still not allowed an identification card indicating their proper gender identity. Diane continues to run campaigns to fight for transgender people to legally change their gender.

In 2011 Diane Rodriguez won a “Pride and Diversity” award at the "Iberoamerican Summit of Young Leaders" in Cancun, Mexico.  In 2012, she represented Ecuador at the "Women Deliver" Satellite Session at two consecutive International AIDS Conferences in Mexico City and Washington, D.C. In 2013, Diane Rodriguez represented Ecuador at the “Conference against Homophobia,” as a prelude to the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Diane Rodriguez is the first transgender person to ever enroll at the University of Guayaquil. She is currently studying psychology and is a member of the University’s Scientific Group of Faculty. She has lectured at various institutions over the years such as the San Francisco and Quito Polytechnic, University of Cuenca, Universidad Casa Grande de Guayaquil, and Guayaquil University. She emerged as an important figure in Ecuadorian politics when she made history by becoming the first transgender person to vie for a Congressional seat in the leftist Ruptura 25 party during Equador’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013. 

Diane Rodriguez continues her struggle for equality as outspoken activist and director of Silueta X. Her achievements are an example to admire in the international struggle for LGBTI justice and women’s rights.

You can find more information about Diane Rodriguez and her advocacy work at the following links:
www.DianeRodriguez.Net


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Respect, Protect, and Pleasure Ms. J



There I was, a deer in the fluorescent headlights, my feet in stirrups and my undercarriage catching the freshly methylated breeze of the clinic. I had finally gone to the doctor to address a discomfort I had in my “down there” area. (I had not yet made friends with Ms. J, my bujaina. I called her “down there”, “underneath”, or when I was feeling especially cold towards her, “anus”). I had spoken to my mother about this growing discomfort underneath and she had said it might be a heamorrhoid because “you sit down a lot” – I was a student at the time and sitting down was, indeed, one of my main responsibilities. I went to the clinic to get help.

After hushed explanations to the receptionist and a few minutes of sitting down and trying to touch absolutely nothing in the waiting area, my name was called and I consulted with a nurse. She asked me to take my pants off, sit at the edge of the table and put my feet in stirrups. (I had never done it that way before, but I went with it). There were a few minutes of silent and awkward prodding and wincing. Having found no malady after rudely poking at Ms. J, she opened the door, stepped out and called in a doctor to confirm that my case was confusing.

The doctor turned out to be one I did not particularly trust. On a previous occasion, he had awkwardly taken my sexual history without making eye-contact or introducing himself. He asked me a series of strange questions including “are you an MSM?” When I asked for my medical records (curious to see what sense he could have possibly made of the inane questions and reluctant answers), he asked me if it was perhaps because I was worried about what was going on against the gay community in Kenya. We were in the US, and nothing alarming was happening in Kenya as far as I knew. He explained that the records were confidential, except if an unknown suite in my insurance company wanted to see them. I explained how far South Africa (my home country) is from Kenya, punctuating my words with severely disparaging looks.

He walked in, asked the nurse some questions, and decided that I needed to see a specialist. They Googled for one on the computer inside the consultation room. In their eagerness, they had forgotten to allow me to veil Ms. J again while calling for reinforcements and Googling for help. So I remained spread-eagled on the table in a sea of fluorescent light. It was decidedly unpornographic. Ms. J saw more action in that hour than she had in the preceding 6 months. That thought made me sad.

Nurse and Doctor Stirrups referred me to a specialist in another part of town. I was not sure exactly his specialization – I was too busy being shocked by how much money someone was going to pay for my visit (fortunately, I had health insurance). After patiently waiting for my name to come up, I was led into his office. I took a surreptitious picture of a book lying on his cluttered desk: “The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex – A Medical Handbook for Men.” He finally came in and shook my hand, a kind faced 50-something year old whose heaviness gave the reassurance of a paper weight against the wind. He sat on the other side of his desk and I explained why I was there.

Dr: When was the last time you had sex?
Dr (*laughs): On the way here?
K (*mock outrage): “Excuse me! …Uhmm, a few months ago.”
Dr: “Did you top? Did you bottom?”
K: “Yes.”
Dr: “When you bottomed, did you have any pain?”
K: “Only at first.”
Dr: “Any bleeding?”
K: “No.”

He directed me to his table where he left me behind a screen to take off my pants so that he could come back and inspect my junk. Thankfully, there were no stirrups this time. He asked some banal questions while checking the outside and inside of Ms. J., making sure to announce everything he was going to do before doing it: “Where are you from?”, “Where is your family now?”, “I am about to insert a finger”,  “What are you studying?”…  I had never thought about my family while Ms. J was being visited. It was weird and unsettling, but I knew that he was trying to put me at ease, and I really appreciated that. He showed me some paper towels to use for cleanup and invited me back to his desk when I was ready. At his desk, this doctor (who I had just decided to name my Butt-Doctor) told me what he was screening for, and he told me ways to manage my discomfort while we wait for the results.

***

In organizing a series of webinars on Anal Health for the MSMGF, I have been reflecting on these contrasting experiences with healthcare providers, which both took place in very well-resourced settings, and neither of which were homophobic in the slightest. Even though Nurse and Doctor Stirrups may not have intended to have this effect, their ill-informed exploration of Ms. J and their lack of concern for my privacy were jarring. The environment they created was not conducive to an open exchange of information that would help us figure out what was happening with my body. Having already felt an ineptitude around the discussion of sex, I would not choose to go to Nurse and Doctor Stirrups if I had STI symptoms. Because I had that negative experience with them, I would be reluctant to go there even with flu symptoms.

My Butt-Doctor, on the other hand, not only made me feel comfortable enough to talk about my sex life in some detail, he had the skills and knowledge to investigate my problem and explain what he was doing and why he was doing it. His office felt safe from the moment I walked in. Seeing the book on his desk made me think that he knew what he was doing even before I started speaking with him. He was respectful of my body and of the way I have sex. After our consult, I felt like it would be almost as easy to tell him if I had warts on my dick as it would be to tell him if I had a persistent headache.

The aim of the MSMGF webinar series on Anal Health is to equip members of our global network of lay and professional healthcare workers with a certain level of knowledge, skills, and language to deliver the care that their clients deserve. This entails not only being non-judgmental about the ways that patients live their lives, but being skilled to deliver needed care and being understanding of the fullness of their sexual lives. It means that anal sex cannot only be conceived of in terms of the risk it poses for HIV and STI transmission; it must be understood as an expression, as a pleasure, as a source of confidence or insecurity, as a source of shame or pride. Anal sex has to be understood in the multiple and complicated ways that other kinds of sex are.

We attempt to expand the way that anal sex is discussed (in the field of public health, it is often discussed as a “problem” in and of itself), by beginning with the radical assumption that anal sex causes, first and foremost, pleasure. And pleasure is a good thing. The ways in which we seek and enjoy pleasure are related, both as cause and consequence, to numerous areas of concern to public health, including mental health, drug use, HIV, and other STIs. We do not all, however, go around with the sole objective of vanquishing HIV; we go around living and loving, playing, fucking, and licking, because it feels good. And because it is good to feel good.

We open the series today with a presentation on the physiology of anal sex and how it relates to pleasure. We hope that there will be much discussion in the question and answer session immediately following the presentation, and we have opened up the MSMGF Blog to continue the discussion online. Today’s presenter, Bryan Kutner, has kindly agreed to respond to comments and questions in this Blog space that were not raised during the webinar. Please feel free to engage on this topic below, and keep an eye out for forthcoming webinars in the series.

Happy 2014!

Keletso

Keletso Makofane is a South African Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. The first webinar in the MSMGF’s series on Anal Health took place today, January 21st, at 7AM PST - a recording of the webinar is available here. An interactive discussion with the presenter will take place here MSMGF Blog during and after the webinar. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sou Sotheavy: An LGBTI Activist Who Never Gives Up

As the David Kato Vision & Voice Award begins to celebrate its third year, we continue to receive hundreds of nominations of phenomenal activists for LGBTI rights around the world. With the announcement of this 2014 winner coming up on February 14th at the renowned Teddy Awards in Berlin, we are honored to introduce you to the 5 incredible people who have been shortlisted for this year’s award. 

Last week we started this series with Mac-Darling Cobbinah of Ghana, and this week we are thrilled to present Sou Sotheavy of Cambodia. Born in 1940 in Takeo Province, Sotheavy survived the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge regime to become a leading figure in Cambodia’s movement for LGBTI rights. Now 74 years old, she continues to travel to the provinces to support fledgling LGBTI organizations, and she has said that she will continue to work for LGBTI rights for as long as she can walk. 




It was in 1999 – Cambodia had just overcome thirty years of civil war – when Sou Sotheavy began to realize that although many civil society organizations were being founded in the newly established setting of peace and stability none of them supported LGBTI people. “Discrimination against LGBTI and sex workers was simply ignored”, says Sotheavy recalling her own background of being born as a man but identifying herself as a woman. When her family discovered her transgender orientation she was physically and emotionally abused until, at the age of 14, her mother chased her out of her home saying that “You are no longer my son.”

Sotheavy remembers clearly how lonely and abandoned she felt when she sought refuge in a pagoda which took her in. Later on, when she found her place among a group of LGBTI in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, she realized how important support networks are. Even in her darkest hours during the rule of the Khmer Rouge from April 1975 to January 1979, an ultra-communist oppressive regime which aimed to wipe out any person they deemed to fall outside of the norm, she was able to survive with the help of other LGBTI. It was in 1999 that Sotheavy made the decision to commit her life to the fight for LGBTI who suffered like she did.

Her first initiative was to create LGBTI support groups in Phnom Penh and other provinces. Using her network of LGBTI friends in various communities, Sotheavy identified LGBTI people in five different provinces and brought them together to learn about their rights, violence against LGBTI, and health issues. In each group, a team leader was designated as focal person to receive training from Sotheavy to continue outreach and awareness-raising activities in their communities. Team leaders were assigned to become the first point of contact for emergencies or other cases where members of the LGBTI support group were in need of assistance.

Not long after, the support groups became active on their first case. In 1999, two LGBTI sex workers were killed by their clients for unknown reasons. Alerted by the support group, Sotheavy filed a complaint to the police on the victims’ behalf, who had no support from their families. However, despite several meetings with the police, no investigation has been conducted to this day, even though at each meeting the police promised to take action. In the following years, 16 other LGBTI sex workers were killed by their clients without being held accountable for their crimes.

But Sotheavy remains undaunted. Despite the challenges, her work has achieved my victories as well. Sotheavy still remembers the moment her work first made a positive difference, back in 2000 when she first began. That year, Ouk Chanara was a young boy of 16 from a province bordering Phnom Penh who decided to reveal to his parents that he was homosexual. Shortly after, Sotheavy was called by the support group to facilitate a dialogue between Ouk Chanara and his parents, who were about to chase him out of their home. With her own story in mind, Sotheavy met with the entire family for a series of consultation sessions during which she tried to foster their acceptance and understanding.

“It was a challenge to get through to the family. They were not open to any discussion in the beginning. They felt ashamed that their son behaved like this,” Sotheavy recalls. Today, Ouk Chanara has a good relationship with his parents. He was never chased out of their home and can freely live according to his sexual orientation.

Since then, Sotheavy has continued to pursue her vision of a world where LGBTI people no longer suffer discrimination and can exercise their rights like any other citizen. At present, she is working on expanding the LGBTI support groups to other provinces that have not been covered thus far. Her goal is to establish such groups in all provinces of Cambodia so that any LGBTI person can seek assistance within their own community. At the same time, Sotheavy continues to hold consultation meetings with LGBTI and their families to help restore their relationships. “The team leaders do not dare to intervene in affairs of their community members, so they call me,” explains Sotheavy. Since the beginning of this year, she has been working with four different families.

Discrimination and abuse do not only originate from the family but also from the broader community. Sotheavy’s work therefore includes outreach and awareness-raising visits where she and team leaders go from house to house in a single village to share information about LGBTI rights and call on the villagers to stop anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. Recently, these efforts were broadened through open forums where members of the community, local authority, police, and LGBTI support groups came together to listen to the testimonies of LGBTI people and discuss solutions for their problems. Such open forums were held in three different provinces with around 500 participants each. “Everyone was interested to hear about the issues that LGBTI face on a daily basis. To me it was great to see and feel the support of so many people,” recalls Sotheavy.

When asked about where she finds her strength to continue her work, Sotheavy describes the story of Cindy, a transgender woman who also called upon Sotheavy for a family consultation meeting. Despite Sotheavy’s efforts, the family asked Cindy to leave their home. Cindy made her own way and became a very successful make-up artist. Today, Cindy is the president of a foundation which provides financial support for health services or other needs of LGBTI people. “Even sometimes when we think we have failed, this work can still make a difference. That’s why I never give up.”

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Introducing Mac-Darling Cobbinah, Activist from Ghana and Nominee for the 2014 David Kato Vision & Voice Award

To better acquaint you with the impressive 2014 DKVVA nominees, the MSMGF presents a new blog series highlighting the advocacy work of these amazing individuals! Today, the MSMGF introduces Mac-Darling Cobbinah, an LGBTI activist based in Ghana who is committed to fighting for the sexual rights of the LGBTI community in his home as well as all over the world. Please read on to hear about the work Mac-Darling Cobbinah is doing:


Since discovering my sexual identity in 1997 I have worked tirelessly to create awareness for the human rights conditions of all people - especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community living in Ghana. My advocacy with the UNAIDS Ghana office paved the way for the first ever Ghanaian men who have sex with men (MSM) project in 2004. I led this pilot project for a year, continuing amid high levels of stigma and discrimination from our partners. There was a high rate of internalized homophobia during this time and many gay men I considered friends would deny knowing me due to the immense stigma associated with being gay. In 2003 I formed and registered the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana (CEPEHRG) to enable effective programming for LGBTI people in Accra. 

I am a passionate advocate for the rights of the LGBTI community of Ghana. I remain in open support of the human rights of LGBTI people despite the death threats that happen from time to time. Despite working in a hostile environment. With the constant struggle of securing funding, I have volunteered my time to defend LGBTI people for more than ten years without even a realistic salary. 

I am now managing the MSM HIV/AIDS Intervention Project, a highly stigmatized human rights organization. We address the sexual health needs of young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by providing services such as peer outreach, distribution of condoms and lubricants, Drop-In-Centre (DIC) activities, referrals for sexually transmitted infections, and a community center in Accra where LGBTI people can visit on weekends to socialize and receive support.

I was recently trained as a Human Rights Defender by Frontline Human Rights Defenders Ireland and have since been training peer educators and youth groups on human rights and freedom, digital security, and stress management. I am also a motivational speaker to people living with HIV and AIDS. To this day I have trained almost 150 peer educators, teaching them how to handle hostile work environments and how to protect themselves and their offices.

For the past decade I have been involved in MSM HIV/AIDS intervention activities both at the local and international level. As a result, CEPEHRG earned a UNAIDS Red Ribbon Award at the 2008 World AIDS Conference in Mexico.

I started the first ever MSM HIV and AIDS intervention project in Ghana in 2004 which has expanded across the country through partnerships with other organizations and groups. Currently I am a member of the UNAIDS technical working group, a member of the MARP technical working group and the co-chair of the MSM technical working group; which helps form policies and programs for key populations such as sex workers, men have sex with men, intravenous drug users, and prisoners. 

I also act as the local leader for the House of Rainbow Ghana office and have been organizing meetings for religious LGBTI youth to pray and motivate one another in matters related to their health, well-being and psychosocial support. Through House of Rainbow, LGBTI people are able to meet others who share similar beliefs. In a safe space they can exchange knowledge, experience and support when needed. 

I also work as a trainer and a facilitator specializing in human rights education and advocacy. I have organized a series of training workshops to empower marginalized groups to realize their potential. I am a founding member of African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), which seeks to advocate for HIV/AIDS programs that focus on MSM across Africa.

I have attended HIV and human rights conferences across Africa, America and Europe. I have always returned home to use my newfound knowledge from these conferences to support the LGBTI community in Ghana. I just recently completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies (Development Communications) at the African University College of Communication.  I was previously unable to complete a higher education due to my effeminate behavior and the high level of stigma directed toward effeminate men in Ghana. Now, at age 36, my interest lies in continuing my work with the marginalized LGBTI community living in Ghana. There is still much work to be done: We need better security systems. We need better, safer community centers and we need to train more LGBT youth to become peer educators.  It is only the beginning.

***

Présentation de Mac-Darling Cobbinah, activiste au Ghana et candidat pour le Prix Vision et Voix David Kato 2014 

Afin de vous familiariser avec les impressionnants candidats pour le Prix David Kato 2014, la MSMGF vous présente une nouvelle série de blog en soulignant le travail de ces personnes étonnantes ! Aujourd'hui, le MSMGF introduit Mac-Darling Cobbinah , un activiste LGBTI basée au Ghana qui est engagé dans la lutte pour les droits sexuels de la communauté LGBTI dans son pays aussi bien que partout dans le monde. S'il vous plaît, lisez ce qui suit afin d’entendre parler Mac-Darling Cobbinah de son travail:

Depuis la découverte de mon identité sexuelle en 1997, j'ai travaillé sans relâche pour faire connaître les conditions de toutes les personnes, et des droits de la personne - en particulier de la communauté lesbienne, gay, bisexuelle, transgenre et intersexuée (LGBTI) vivant au Ghana. Mon plaidoyer auprès du bureau de l'ONUSIDA Ghana a ouvert la voie pour les premiers hommes gays ghanéens qui ont des rapports sexuels avec des hommes (HSH) en 2004 . J'ai mené ce projet pilote d'un an, dans au milieu élevé de stigmatisation et de discrimination de la part de nos partenaires. Il y avait un taux élevé d'homophobie intériorisée pendant ce temps. Beaucoup d'hommes homosexuels que je considérais amis nieraient me connaître en raison de l'immense stigmatisation associée à l'homosexualité. En 2003, je me suis formé, inscrit au Centre d'éducation populaire et des droits de la personne, Ghana ( CEPEHRG ) pour permettre une programmation efficace pour les personnes LGBTI à Accra .

Je suis un ardent défenseur des droits de la communauté LGBTI du Ghana . Je reste à l'appui ouvert des droits humains des personnes LGBTI en dépit des menaces de mort qui se produisent de temps en temps, et en dépit de travailler dans un environnement hostile. Avec la lutte constante pour assurer un financement, j'ai fait du bénévolat à défendre les personnes LGBTI depuis plus de dix ans, sans même recevoir un salaire réaliste.

Je suis maintenant chargé de la gestion du projet d'intervention MSM VIH / SIDA , une organisation fortement stigmatisée de droits de la personne. Nous répondons aux besoins de santé sexuelle des jeunes personnes lesbiennes, bisexuelles et transgenres, en fournissant des services tels que la sensibilisation par les pairs, la distribution de préservatifs et de lubrifiants, avec un Centre d’accueil qui fournit des activités, des références pour les infections sexuellement transmissibles, et un centre communautaire à Accra où les gens LGBTI peuvent visiter le week-end pour socialiser et recevoir un soutien personnel.

J'ai récemment été formé en tant que Défenseur des droits de la personne par Frontline Human Rights Defenders en Irlande.  Depuis, je fais la formation d’éducateurs pairs et de groupes de jeunes sur la liberté et les droits de la personne, de la sécurité de groupes et la gestion du stress. Je suis également un conférencier motivateur pour les personnes vivant avec le VIH et le SIDA. A ce jour, j'ai formé près de 150 pairs éducateurs, de leur apprendre à gérer en environnements de travail hostiles et comment se protéger et protéger leurs bureaux en toute sécurité.

Pour la dernière décennie, j'ai été impliqué dans les activités d'intervention MSM VIH / SIDA à la fois au niveau local et international. En conséquence, le CEPEHRG a obtenu le Prix Ruban Rouge ONUSIDA lors de la Conférence mondiale du SIDA 2008 au Mexique.

J'ai commencé le premier projet d'intervention MSM VIH et le sida au Ghana en 2004, qui a été étendu à l'ensemble du pays grâce à des partenariats avec d'autres organisations et groupes. Actuellement, je suis un membre du groupe de de travail technique de l'ONUSIDA, un membre du groupe de travail technique de MARPs et le co-président du groupe de travail technique MSM, ce qui permet de développer et de mettre en œuvre des politiques et des programmes destinés aux populations clés tels les travailleurs du sexe, les hommes ont des rapports sexuels avec les hommes, les consommateurs de drogues injectables et les prisonniers .

Je suis aussi le chef local de la House of Rainbow Ghana qui organise des réunions pour les jeunes LGBTI religieux pour prier et pour motiver les uns les autres dans les questions relatives à leur santé, bien-être et pour offrir un soutien psychosocial. Grâce à la House of Rainbow, ces personnes LGBTI sont en mesure de rencontrer d'autres personnes qui partagent des mêmes croyances. Dans un espace sûr où ils peuvent échanger des connaissances, l'expérience et le soutien en cas de besoin.

Je travaille aussi en tant que formateur et un animateur spécialisé dans l'éducation aux droits de la personne et de plaidoyer. J'ai organisé une série d'ateliers de formation afin que des groupes marginalisés réalisent leur potentiel. Je suis un des membres fondateur de Hommes d’Afrique pour les droits et la santé sexuelle (AMSHeR), qui vise à promouvoir des programmes de VIH / SIDA qui se concentrent sur les HSH en Afrique .

J'ai assisté aux conférences touchant le VIH et les droits de la personne à travers l'Afrique, l'Amérique et l'Europe. J'ai toujours rentrés chez moi pour utiliser mes nouvelles connaissances afin de soutenir la communauté LGBTI au Ghana. J'ai récemment terminé un baccalauréat ès arts en études de communication (Communications pour le développement) à l'Université africaine de la communication. J'étais pas parvenu à terminer mes études supérieures en raison de mon comportement efféminé et le niveau élevé de stigmatisation dirigée vers les hommes efféminés au Ghana. Maintenant, à 36 ans, mon intérêt est de poursuivre mon travail avec la communauté LGBTI marginalisés vivant au Ghana. Il y a encore beaucoup de travail à faire : Nous avons besoin de meilleurs systèmes de sécurité. Nous avons besoin de centres communautaires plus sûrs et nous avons besoin de former davantage de jeunes LGBT à devenir des pairs éducateurs. Ce n'est qu’un début.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Waiting for the Wind: A Short Film Depicting the Lives of Gay Men in Vietnam

By Speaking Out Staff

Waiting for the Wind is a short film directed by Hieu Tran, founder of Friends Make Film in Vietnam.  The film depicts the lives of two young gay men living in Ho Chi Minh City, showcasing poignant messages about love, sex, HIV, and the challenges gay men face due to stigma and discrimination in Vietnam. The film also delves into family support, sex work, and access to HIV services, aiming to catalyze frank discussions about the lives of gay men in a country where many people do not see homosexuality in a positive light.


Waiting for the Wind

Hieu Tran founded Friends Make Film in 2012, bringing together a local group of young gay men and straight allies who have the passion and commitment to make short films that tell stories of Vietnamese people, including the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. To make Waiting for the Wind, Hieu Tran worked with a dedicated crew of gay and straight allies to write the script, recruit the two main actors (one gay and one straight), produce the film, and release it online.  Tran was motivated to write the script because he believes that gay men’s love, struggles, and experiences need to be discussed openly in Vietnam.

The film will be screened and discussed in public forums with stakeholders, policy makers, healthcare providers, and the community at large. Tran believes that Waiting for the Wind has the potential to raise awareness and generate important dialogues about the most salient issues in the lives of gay men in Vietnam. The online response to the film has been extremely positive, with the film accumulating over 23,000 hits on youtube in the first two months since its release.


G-Link and the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) supported the production of Waiting for the Wind as part of the Speaking Out Initiative in Vietnam. The Speaking Out Initiative is in its second year of implementation, with the mission to strengthen MSM advocacy and engagement at the local, national, and international level to end the HIV epidemic and promote MSM human rights with the Vietnamese HIV law and other social-political contexts.  For more information on Speaking Out Vietnam visit: http://www.msmgf.org/index.cfm/id/346/Vietnam/.

The film can be viewed in full online at http://youtu.be/nu6f8O9h_VQ.