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Grassroots reports on the work of amfAR-supported research teams and advocates responding to the devastating impact of HIV among gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals (collectively, GMT).

Beijing Airport

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Posted by Kent Klindera on 8 October 2010

Beijing Airport: 8 October 2010

We've just left the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, after spending two days with colleagues at the Chengdu Gay Care Centre. The group serves as the secretariat for the China Tongle MSM Forum, an amfAR-supported partner consisting of more than 70 community-based gay men's groups throughout the country.

Fear—from our arrival in China I've noted the damaging effect fear has on efforts to reduce the impact of HIV among MSM. Homophobia permeates society here and creates great challenges for amfAR's partners. Homophobia and the fear that underlies it force gay men (and lesbians) to marry opposite-sex partners and then develop shadow relationships with same-sex partners. Fear of being found out makes gay men especially easy victims for extortion—some men blackmail wealthier gay men, threatening to "out" them and thus ruin their careers or bring shame to their family.

amfAR's project involves supporting a lawyers collective that works with six community-based organization, helping gay men understand that they actually do have rights, and that laws exist that can be used to end extortion. This may not seem to be directly HIV-related, but providing condoms and lubricant only goes so far. Gay men need to have the motivation to use condoms, and freedom from fear is a great motivator. Clearly, this particular project is helping to create hope!

We also spent many hours chatting with younger gay men. While they are still struggling with identity issues, they don't seem to feel as much pressure to deny their feelings and marry a woman. However, some young men say that gay male relationships are not stable and cannot last—because they are men, they say, and that is how they are! Still, these young men are motivated to fight for their rights in a country where rights can be fragile. They complain that their government is not responsive and that many major donors are complicit in not being responsive or supporting NGOs. They walk a fine line, challenging government policy in strategic ways and testing the limits of their freedom to criticize government policy and fight for their rights. I'm proud to be part of amfAR's support for these guys—here, we are really helping shine a "light on their rights," as this year's World AIDS Day campaign urges.

I suppose internalize-homophobia is the same everywhere
Posted by: Caleb Orozco at 10/12/2010 9:29 PM

It is great to read of the good work that is happening in China. Little by little, person by person you are making a real difference!
Posted by: Ralph Vogel at 10/12/2010 9:41 PM

Hi Kent,
I must congratulate you with this initiative and keep on shining a light on the rights for these chinese friends.

Kenneth van Emden
Posted by: Kenneth van Emden at 10/13/2010 12:36 AM

This is an exodus.Health Service provision to Gay community has a big challenge in organizing and making sure there is Psychological support for Gays in China.We will make it Right.
Posted by: Evans Jerry at 10/13/2010 7:13 AM

Thanks for supporting our work and advancing constructive suggestions as project supervisor,which helps roll out our project . We look forward to a better cooperation with amFar. And BTW, thanks for the lovely gifts you gave us, it's really nice and considerate of you.
Welcome back to China!
Posted by: Jet( Visit ) at 10/13/2010 10:09 AM

Fear, hate, internalised homophobia, structures that promote heterosexuality and homonegativity are some of the issues serious intervention programmers among MSM, WSW, TGs, LGBTIQ will need to also address.Small tailor made learning sessions that have budgets allocated for such purposes will in turn empower beneficiaries in voicing their needs and designing plans to address these. MSM Initiative is going a long way in providing this kind of enabling environment. China experiences are a lesson for many.
Posted by: THOMAS IN UGANDA at 10/13/2010 10:22 AM

Interesting piece. Very similar to the issues faced by the LGBTI community in Nigeria.

With no particular law that specifically punish same-sex loving persons, it is easier for us to stand motivated and speak against government policies that infringe on our right to access quality health services, as citizens of Nigeria. With new HIV incidence reportedly on the increase among MSM in Nigeria, it has become very necessary for us as members of the community to move on from conducting advocacy - to increased activism, if we are to improve access to health for MSM.

Many thanks to the amfAR MSM initiative for the grassroot support it provides. This effort has produced positive changes at the community level, as has been seen in various reports.
Posted by: Oliver( Visit ) at 10/14/2010 2:20 PM

Wow,this is a good lesson to all of us,the situation here in Ethiopia regarding homophobia is much worse,there is no any targeted health care information and service to MSM but we are now organizing and leading our community to address the issue by ourselves using a community based health education & promotion project.we will share our challenges & experiences some other time.
Henoke Teferi
Posted by: Henoke Teferi( Visit ) at 10/15/2010 10:14 AM

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