From the MSM pre conference at the IAC 2016.
The MSM preconference for the 21st International AIDS Conference organized by the Global Forum on MSM (MSMGF) took place on 16th of July at the International Convention Center in Durban, South Africa. The pre conference set the tone for gay, bisexual and MSM activists to engage in the conference with the right energy, fire and passion.
I was fortunate enough to hear one of the best statements during one of the break out sessions. Dr. Mandheep Daliwal from the UNDP speaking at a panel titled “Changing Gears: A Guide to Effective HIV Service Programming For Gay Men And Other Men Who Have Sex With Men In Asia”, organized by APCOM mentioned that as programmers and implementers we are still to learn and understand about young MSM. She emphasized the lack of data on young MSM and the necessity to adopt a holistic approach for the HIV response for young MSM encompassing families, schools, and heath services. The guide launched by APCOM during this sessions facilitates a young MSM centered approach with schools, internet, communities and families and health workers combined.
YVC also organized a panel discussion during the MSM pre conference titled “Jumping Hurdles; Assessing the friendly HIV health services for young gay and bisexual men and transgender people in Asia and Pacific”. The panel included Doan Tung, YVC member and leader of Light House club in Vietnam, Rokonol Rabbi, YVC member and Link Up from Bangladesh and Inad Rendon, senior program and advocacy officer of APCOM.
Rokonol discussed about the importance of meaningful engagement of young people in advocacy with health service facilities in order to create youth friendly health services. “it is us who know what kind of a services we want and therefore it is crucial that we let them know”. “An assessment of the services will facilitate a platform for young people to inform the health services of the services they require” mentioned Inad commenting on the importance and benefits of assessing existing health services . Speaking about advertising and promotion of HIV testing among young people Tung said, ”we need to understand HIV testing as a product and invest our energy and intelligence to promote and advertise it as any other product”.
It is vital that as young gay, bisexual and other young men who have sex with men we constantly advocate to bring the focus of the HIV response on our communities. The epidemic in the region is getting younger and is concentrated among MSM and transgender communities. As the younger counterparts of these communities, we are extremely vulnerable and at high risk of HIV. Join with us to fight for meaningful engagement of young gay and bisexual men, other young men who have sex with men and young transgender people in the HIV response. We are not any more for tokens.
Written by Niluka Perera- Project Officer of Youth Voices Count.