Africa: Ethiopia to Host Men Having Sex with Men Conference
By George Okore
ADDIS ABABA---Prior to the 16th edition of International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), delegates gather on December 3, 2011 at Jupiter International Hotel, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia to discuss men having sex with men (MSM).
Organized by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), the meeting dubbed Claim, Scale-up, and Sustain, seeks to increase attention on MSM and HIV related issues in Africa, to reflect on the state of the response in MSM communities in Africa and to identify ways forward for scaling up MSM and HIV interventions.
A number of speakers including UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, United States Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby and current Chairperson of the Committee for the Protection of the rights of PLHIV Reine Alapini –Gansou will be in attendance. The meeting will cover a range of topics highlighting most pressing health and human rights issues facing sexual minorities today, including criminalization of consensual same-sex practices and new biomedical approaches to HIV prevention.
The African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) is the regional coalition of MSM/LGBT led organizations and other organizations that work to address the vulnerability of gay and bisexual men, Male-to-female transgender women and other MSM, to HIV. AMSHeR is the brainchild of several HIV and human rights advocates following the ICASA conference in Abuja Nigeria, in 2005.
Since then follow-up meetings during HIV and human rights gathering were used to bring on board more allies and sympathizers. The need to formally establish the coalition was agreed at the 2008 IAS Conference in Mexico 2008. A consensus workshop to define and agree on the objectives of the new partnership was held in Cape Town on March 16-17, 2009.
AMSHeR Executive Director Joel Gustave Nana says it represents 15 organizations from Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It provides a platform for exchange and learning among grassroots MSM organizations, HIV services and advocacy organizations, human rights organizations and other agencies working with and (or) for MSM communities.
The full-day event will also feature presentations from more than 15 of the continent’s top experts on the health and human rights of sexual minorities. With about 200 attendees from more than 25 countries, the conference will offer a unique opportunity for experts as well as developing practitioners to cultivate new partnerships, network, build skills, share best practices and conduct hands-on learning.