amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

GRASSROOTS: The GMT Initiative Blog

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).

Reaching Out to “Outcasts” in Ukraine’s Prisons: A Photo Essay

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The Penitentiary Initiative, a long-term GMT Initiative partner, based in Nikolaev, Ukraine, provides HIV outreach and social support in seven prisons in the Ukraine. Outreach workers visit each prison once or twice a month to work with three types of inmates: General inmates who are involved in an HIV prevention program, those living openly with HIV, and those deemed “outcasts” because of their real or perceived GMT sexual orientation. Outcasts are relegated to the worst jobs in the prison, targeted for physical and sexual abuse, and frequently humiliated.


The Penitentiary Initiative provides all three groups with psychosocial support, HIV/AIDS education, self-confidence training, career training, and a safe place to gather and talk. It also trains the participants to provide HIV outreach to inmates who are not part of the program. With support from amfAR, The Penitentiary Initiative developed a manual that is guiding Ministry of Justice employees as they work to implement similar programs in other Ukrainian prisons. These are some of the participants from two of the prisons where the organization works, Colony 53 and Colony 93.

Photos and interviews by Chris Vail.