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).

The GMT Advocacy Exchange Program Visits Argentina

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Posted by Ben Clapham, May 27, 2014

Last week, I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with my colleagues Elias and Nairobi from GMT Initiative grantee partner Comunidad de Trans y Travestis Trabajadoras Sexuales Dominicana (COTRAVETD) in the Dominican Republic for an advocacy exchange visit with the Federacion Argentina de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales y Trans (FALGBT). Our advocacy exchanges are designed to allow newer GMT organizations to learn skills and strategies from organizations that have successfully advocated for greater health and human rights for LGBT.

(From left to right) Nairobi Castillo, director of COTRAVETD; Marcela Romero, president of REDLACTRANS; and Esteban Paulin, president of FALGBT meet during the advocacy exchange.

FALGBT is a consortium of more than 60 LGBT organizations from across Argentina, and it was the catalyst for the passage of the bill that legalized same-sex marriages in Argentina in 2010, as well as for the groundbreaking 2012 Gender Identity Law that made it the first country in the world to allow people to change their name and sex on official documents without getting approval from a judge or doctor. “The Marriage Equality Bill had to be passed first, because Argentines can understand same-sex marriage. A law that promotes gender identity is very abstract and hard for people to grasp,” said Esteban Paulin, president of FALBGT, while discussing the coalition’s strategy.

In the Dominican Republic, on the other hand, trans individuals have very few health or human rights and little access to HIV care and other health services. “In my country, there are strong religious beliefs, and we are still a very macho society,” said Nairobi, the director of COTRAVETD, which is a trans-focused organization. “The road will be long to passing a law that will allow the sex on my passport to match the gender that I live, but I know together we will make it happen.”

What was most striking during our visit was the relative cohesion in Argentina between trans-focused groups and groups that primarily focus on gay or lesbian issues. In many countries, these organizations pursue their own separate advocacy agendas and do not have a coordinated response. “The important thing was unity. The trans community didn’t see or feel the necessity for marriage equality. We wanted and needed a law that recognized our gender identity,” said Marcela Romero, director of Asociación de Travestis, Transexuales, Transgéneros Argentinas (ATTTA), a GMT Initiative grantee partner that is part of FALGBT. “However, we understood that due to popular opinion, the marriage bill would need to come first, so we decided to support the gay and lesbian groups, knowing that after the marriage bill, they would support us for the gender identity bill.”

Two UNAIDS employees discuss the UN strategies that facilitated the passage of Argentina’s Marriage Equality and Gender Identity Bills with members of COTRAVETD and FALGBT. 
Two UNAIDS employees discuss the UN strategies that facilitated the passage of Argentina’s Marriage Equality and Gender Identity Bills with members of COTRAVETD and FALGBT.

The week spent in Buenos Aires equipped COTRAVETD with a foundation of ideas and advocacy and coalition-building strategies that can be adapted to the Dominican context.  “The LGBT coalition in the Dominican Republic needs to become better organized and to have the same goal agreed upon by lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and the trans community before we can launch an appeal for legal change,” said Elias, the technical advisor for COTRAVETD.  It was also an inspiring visit, and during our final night together, over a delicious steak, Nairobi told Elias and me, “I, Nairobi, will not stop until we have the same protections for LGBT people in the Dominican Republic that they have here in Argentina!”

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia Is May 17

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Posted by Lucile Scott on May 16, 2014

Silueta X will hold its Guayaquil Kiss-In at the Plaza San Francisco.

May 17 marks the 10th anniversary of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). IDAHOT was launched in 2004 to increase awareness about the violence and discrimination LGBT people face each day. To observe the day, LGBT groups and advocates worldwide organize events to oppose discrimination, garner media attention, network, and mobilize new constituencies. Each year the day’s scope and impact has grown, and last year events took place in nearly 120 countries around the globe. Below is what several GMT Initiative grantee partners will be up to on Saturday. Find a listing of events near you or get ideas for organizing an event of your own here.

  Asociación Silueta X in Guayaquil, Ecuador, is holding simultaneous public Kiss-Ins in Guayaquil and the city of Cuenca to raise awareness about homophobia and transphobia. “As Martin Luther King said, ‘Civil disobedience, not violence,’” says Silueta X founder Diane Rodriguez. “The Kiss-Ins are a peaceful reaction to the murders and violence in the LGBT community. One of our posters will say, ‘Bring Back our Murdered Trans Girls,’ and another will say, ‘A kiss to the mayors of Guayaquil and Cuenca, so they will approve our anti-discrimination bills.”

SEROvie in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has organized a day full of artistic events condemning homophobia and transphobia. The planned activities include plays, public speeches against gender-based violence, LGBT film screenings, and a concert. “For SEROvie, IDAHOT is a day of reflection and collective action against the exclusion of LGBT people, and a day to promote the recognition of our human rights with respect to our sexual orientation and gender identity,” says Steeve Laguerre, executive director of SEROvie.

ThaiTGA’s IDAHOT conference will take place at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

Men Against AIDS Youth Group (MAAYGO) in Kisumu, Kenya, is hosting a luncheon, in partnership with the NYAWEK LGBTI coalition, for local opinion leaders, including police, village elders, and community sub chiefs and chiefs. The attendees will discuss ways to combat the stigma and discrimination that LGBT face. “We decided to organize this meeting instead of a protest because, as activists, we thought addressing the critical issue that homophobia and transphobia are increasing in Kenya with key opinion leaders one on one could have more impact and create change in society,” says MAAYGO’s Henry Victor Digolo.

Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) in Pretoria, South Africa helped organize an all-day community gathering on Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill that will include speakers, poets, and artists. “We cannot be truly free as a country when there are inequalities and violations against minority groups,” says Nthabiseng Mokoena, TIA’s advocacy coordinator. “Even though legislation in our country is progressive, we still live in a country where communities are not tolerant of gender diverse people, discrimination is still prevalent in health care facilities and transgender people still struggle to access employment and educational opportunities.”

The Thai Transgender Alliance (ThaiTGA) in Bangkok, Thailand, is hosting a conference titled Freedom of Expression to Gender Recognition on May 16 from 12:00 p.m. to 18:30 p.m. at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, with co-hosts the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, amfAR, and The Foundation for SOGI rights and Justice. The event will include remarks by Dr. Bhoodsadee Tamthai, deputy governor of Bangkok, and Poy Treechada, a famous trans celebrity. “Recently in Thailand, many trans women have been denied to access to nightclubs, bars, and restaurants, and to women's restrooms. In addition, there were a number of trans women rejected from employment due to stigma and prejudice towards trans identity,” says TGA’s Rena Janamnuaysook. “This event emphasizes the importance of the fundamental human rights of trans people in Thailand.”

Lessons from the Front Lines

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Posted by Kent Klindera May 2, 2014

Members of GMT-Initiative grantee partner Gender DynamiX at the 67 minutes of SHAME march in Cape Town, protesting hate crimes against LGBT (Photo: Gender DynamiX) 
Members of GMT-Initiative grantee partner Gender DynamiX at the 67 minutes of SHAME march in Cape Town, protesting hate crimes against LGBT (Photo: Gender DynamiX)

Today, amfAR launched Lessons from the Front Lines: Research Impact Analysis. The new report highlights how, using a relatively small budget, community-led research can powerfully impact community-based organizations’ response to HIV among GMT populations.  The studies also provide data and information about GMT that is lacking in many areas of the world where the population is highly marginalized and often criminalized. As many of you know, quality research data greatly strengthens advocacy efforts to reduce the great disparities in investment in HIV programming for GMT.

In this latest Lessons from the Front Lines report, we outline some of the most successful community-led research studies our grantee partners have implemented, using amfAR support, to improve HIV testing, treatment, and awareness among GMT in five regions—Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America. Highlights include: grantee partner Silueta X’s study of trans-specific health and human rights issues—the first of its kind in Ecuador; Jóvenes de la Vida Real’s look at male sex workers and their clients in the Dominican Republic; an investigation into the factors that prevent MSM sex workers in Vietnam from accessing health services, undertaken by the STDs/HIV/AIDS Prevention Center (SHAPC); Safe Pulse of Youth (SPY)’s survey of how satisfied LGBT in Serbia are with the health services they receive; and Gender DynamiX’s study of HIV knowledge, sexual behavior, and access to clinical services among 80 trans women in South Africa.

Engaging community organizations in the design, implementation, analysis, and presentation of research studies is essential to their success. These highlighted organizations have used the study results not only to improve their own programming, but also to successfully urge governments, donors, and health systems to increase the effectiveness of their HIV services for GMT. Lessons learned from these formative studies are also helping amfAR support “implementation science” research to develop scalable intervention models that will truly impact the HIV epidemic among GMT populations worldwide. Check it out today and pass it on!