Young MSM and transgender people are raising their voice
10 September 2010
Young men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific region are calling for governments, donors and partners to ‘make youth voices count’ by increasing focus and programming of national HIV responses to include their opinions and needs.
A growing body of data has documented exceptionally high transmission rates among men who have sex with men and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific region.
Men who have sex with men in Asia face nearly one in five odds of being infected with HIV and are estimated to account for roughly half of the national epidemic in many of the small Pacific Islands. In the larger nations of Australia and New Zealand, men who have sex with men is by far the largest transmission category for both HIV prevalence and incidence. Among transgender people, HIV prevalence has been found to range from 10% to 42% in five Asian countries.
Now we have a forum where young MSM and transgender can really contribute – this is very important
Hender Gercio, HIV activist from the Philippines
Held over three days in Bangkok, Thailand, the group discussed key issues including HIV vulnerability, self-esteem, access to relevant and appropriate services and information, education and human rights abuses of young MSM and transgender people in the region, presenting recommendations for action to international partners.
“Young voices – and particularly ours – have not been heard for the longest time in the AIDS response. It is crucial we become empowered. Now we have a forum where young MSM and transgender can really contribute – this is very important,” said Hender Gercio, a student and HIV activist from the Philippines.
Key areas identified as hindering the involvement of young MSM and transgender in the AIDS response includes stigma and discrimination, lack of resources and support in education and ‘self-issues’.
Recommendations for immediate action by the group included the need to:
- Increase and improve data collection on the needs, challenges and social complexities faced by young MSM and transgender people, particularly those living with HIV.
- Adapt the sexuality education agenda to give full information on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Conduct qualitative studies/rapid assessments on the self issues of young MSM and transgender people.
- Ensure representation of young MSM and transgenders in sub-regional and regional MSM and transgender networks.
- Encourage training on issues of young MSM and transgender people among health care workers, to reduce stigma and discrimination and increase access to HIV and health services
Empowering young people and MSM and transgender people to protect themselves from HIV infection are central priorities for UNAIDS. MSM and transgender people face violence and discrimination across the world. In some countries they face imprisonment and even the death penalty.
The consultation represents a timely opportunity to reflect on the struggle that many young MSM and transgender people face in advocating for and taking control of their own health, particularly concerning HIV and sexual health
Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF
“The consultation represents a timely opportunity to reflect on the struggle that many young MSM and transgender people face in advocating for and taking control of their own health, particularly concerning HIV and sexual health,” said James Gray, Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, working with the UNAIDS Regional Support Team in Bangkok. “This is an important step towards strengthening the response by creating a space for this group to be involved in a meaningful way,” he added.
As a result of the consultation, co-organized by the World AIDS Campaign and Dutch-based NGO Hivos, and supported by UNAIDS, further resources will be made available to support MSM youth groups in the region to ensure this momentum is maintained. The group will continue to share experiences, and will reconvene in 12 months. The full consultation and report summary and recommendations can be requested and downloaded from www.worldaidscampaign.org or www.hivos.nl.
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