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amfAR Announces Funding for HIV Services and Research Aimed at Men Who Have Sex With Men in Developing Countries
Date:2/22/2008

More Than 100 Groups Apply for Grants to Assist Men Who Have Sex With Men in Developing Countries

NEW YORK, Feb. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In an ambitious move to significantly bolster global HIV program efforts targeting populations especially vulnerable to HIV, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, has announced the first recipients of funding given out under its new MSM Initiative. These community awards will fund 17 grassroots and frontline organizations in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia that are working to provide essential HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support services for men who have sex with men (MSM), amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost announced today.

"MSM are one of the populations worst affected by HIV worldwide, and this is the first global initiative of its kind supporting local organizations working to address HIV among MSM in developing countries," Frost said.

According to UNAIDS, fewer than one in 20 MSM around the world have access to appropriate HIV/AIDS services. Stigma, discrimination, and lack of access to health services have sparked alarming epidemics that threaten the lives of MSM in underdeveloped regions, mirroring the HIV epidemics that ravaged gay men in North America and Western Europe in the 1980s.

"The MSM Initiative is working to galvanize a much needed global response to the enormous gaps in funding and services for MSM at risk of HIV/AIDS through a partnership with amfAR, UNAIDS, and the Global Forum on MSM and HIV," said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). "Leadership in the gay community was instrumental in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the West. This initiative is fostering new leadership and support for this issue in developing countries across the globe, including nations where male-male sex is illegal and often heavily stigmatized."

These awards mark the first funding cycle completed by the MSM Initiative, which was launched just eight months ago in July 2007. First-round funding includes support for organizations working in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Curacao, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nigeria, Thailand and Zimbabwe. The MSM Initiative received more than 120 applications from organizations in developing countries, with more than 85 from Africa alone, far exceeding expectations.

"The response to our first request for proposals (RFP) for funding the MSM Initiative has been overwhelming, demonstrating the enormous unmet need, particularly in parts of the world where vulnerable populations have few established support systems," Frost said. "Through the MSM Initiative, we hope to foster collaboration among organizations, promote advocacy that transforms attitudes and discriminatory policies, and increase HIV/AIDS funding worldwide for MSM."

A second RFP will be issued on February 22. It will target groups working in Central and South America and Asia and the Pacific.

"For too long, countries around the world have simply assumed MSM do not exist, leaving millions underserved and vulnerable to HIV infection," said Stella Iwuagwu, Executive Director at the Center for the Right to Health in Abuja, Nigeria. "The MSM Initiative provides important resources to help us expand our work to empower MSM in Nigeria and ensure that education, condoms, and treatment are available to all."

Data on HIV rates among MSM in developing countries are sparse but a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University produced some startling findings. Published in the online journal PLoS Medicine, their research showed that in 38 low- and middle-income countries, MSM have an average 19 times greater chance of being infected with HIV than the general population. In some countries MSM are more than 100 times more likely to be infected, the study found.

The MSM Initiative is facilitated by amfAR, with valuable support from its partnerships with the Global Forum on MSM and HIV and UNAIDS. Major donors to the MSM Initiative include the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline's Positive Action Programme and the M•A•C AIDS Fund.

For more information about amfAR and the MSM Initiative, visit http://www.amfar.org.

ABOUT amfAR

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested $260 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams.


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SOURCE amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research
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