Men Who Have Sex with Men: HIV/STI Prevention and Support Project
European Commission (EC)
AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW)Partners:
Noah’s Ark-Red Cross Foundation, Sweden Ukrainian NGO Gay Alliance
Kiyv, UkraineProject duration:
June 2005 – June 2007
Information for MSM:
Information for medical professionals:
'Medical Needs and Issues of Men Who Have Sex with Men’(pdf, 604 KB, 2006)
‘Medical Needs of MSM’(pdf, 617 KB, 2006)
In 2005 AFEW launched the project ‘Men Who Have Sex with Men: HIV/STI Prevention and Support Project’ in Ukraine. The background to the project was a dramatic rise in the number of HIV infections in the country – up from 1,673 in 1995 to 74,856 as of 31 December 2004, according to the Ukrainian National AIDS Centre – and an increase in sexual transmission of HIV. Surveys taken at that time revealed that men who have sex with men (MSM) were particularly vulnerable, due to a lack of information on safe sex and health promotion to reduce risky behaviours.
It was in response to this situation that AFEW, together with the local NGO Gay Alliance, designed a two-year project with the threefold aim of:
- Preventing and reducing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among MSM;
- Breaking down barriers to sexual choice;
- Increasing availability of diagnostic, care and support services for MSM in the city of Kyiv.
What We Have Achieved
A long-term support network for the MSM community in Kyiv. By developing a network of outreach workers, the project aimed to establish channels in the MSM community whereby it could entrench safer behaviour models, deliver wider provision of services and establish communication channels for targeted health promotion. Altogether, eight outreach workers were recruited to the permanent staff of Gay Alliance and trained by AFEW in the principles of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, as well as in psychological, crisis and behavioural counselling. AFEW project managers continue to assess the training needs of these workers and conduct regular support meetings with them.
A basis for better diagnostic, care and support services for MSM. At the outset, AFEW conducted in-depth interviews with STI specialists, urologists, youth clinicians and therapists to assess their understanding of the health needs of MSM and willingness to treat them. In response to the low level of awareness of MSM issues and prejudice towards this group that these interviews revealed, AFEW conducted an intensive training programme for medical staff in spring 2007, distributed a clinical guide and set up a network of clinical contacts for MSM referrals,. As a result, participants of focus groups reported better communication and services from STI professionals and clinics in the project region.
At the same time, outreach workers conducted educational and condom distribution campaigns in the MSM community in partnership with local gay clubs and centres. Agreements with these local venues paved the way for regular educational sessions, free entrance for outreach workers, photo exhibitions aimed at raising awareness of sexual health issues and leaflet distribution directly on their premises.
Health promotion and informational channels that empower the MSM community in its choices. A series of self-help groups were set up with the Substance Abuse and AIDS Prevention Foundation (SAAPF), which continue to run with funding from the International AIDS Alliance. Safe sex messages were disseminated to thousands of men via leaflets, outreach boxes (including information on correct condom use and helpline numbers), websites (www.gayua.com) and active engagement with the media. Finally, project managers undertook a study tour to London in early 2006, with the aim of carrying across the experience of the MSM community in the UK. As a result, six UK-based NGOs agreed to continue cooperation on advocacy in Ukraine after the project ended, as well as helping to find future funding sources to sustain the project’s achievements.
A coalition of NGOs and community groups for better advocacy and dialogue with government. By uniting key agencies from the community, government and NGO sectors, the project led opinion and advocacy on gay rights, safer sexual practice and provision of medical services to MSM. At the local level, NGO representatives were trained in advocacy, fundraising and effective communications. At the national level, the project triggered the creation of an informal coalition of gay-friendly organisations, including AFEW, Gay Alliance, Substance Abuse and AIDS Prevention Foundation (SAAPF), the German NGO ‘Connect Plus’, Ukrainian NGO ‘Life Plus’, Ukrainian Network of PLHIV, NGO ‘Our World’, International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Coalition of HIV Service NGOs. Among the group’s first achievements was the development of a joint training plan for NGOs working with MSM, as well as delivery of an open letter to the Ukrainian President highlighting discrimination against the gay community.
One of the hallmarks of a successful HIV/AIDS project is the continuation of its activities well beyond the formal project end-date. The activities that AFEW set in motion during the MSM project have been taken over by local groups who continue to support and develop them. Moreover, AFEW maintains a strong supporting role in HIV/AIDS education and support among MSM in Ukraine. For instance, AFEW’s Regional Advisor Dr. Yury Sarankov is a member of the MSM Referral Group at the national level and regularly participates in grant reviewing committees. AFEW trainers continue to conduct training sessions that aim to build the capacity of MSM project and participate in events organised on Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues.
AFEW is currently preparing a proposal for a new project for capacity building of MSM services (as of August 2009).