amfAR Funds New Round of "GMT" Grants
In an effort to address the HIV epidemic among at-risk populations in the Caribbean, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announced a new round of grants to help prevent HIV infection and expand access to treatment and care among gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender individuals, known collectively as "GMT." The announcement was made in advance of National Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on June 8.
"HIV/AIDS is still a leading cause of death in the Caribbean, and stigma and discrimination persist," said Kent Klindera, director of amfAR's GMT Initiative. "We must scale up prevention and treatment efforts especially among GMT to reduce new HIV infections, and we hope that these community awards will influence change and spur real progress towards an AIDS-free generation."
An estimated 230,000 people are currently living with HIV in the Caribbean, and HIV prevalence is highest among MSM. With financial support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the GMT Initiative's community awards will help eight front-line organizations implement outreach, advocacy, prevention and treatment efforts in the Caribbean, the most heavily affected region in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.
Awards range from $14,500 to $17,500, and some of the funded projects include helping organizations expand access to HIV testing and increase the availability of condoms and lubricant for GMT in Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda. A group in the Dominican Republic has been funded to organize workshops focused on job skills development for HIV-positive transgender women, and the Antiguan Resilience Collective Inc. will help GMT learn leadership skills to advocate for their own rights.
Other awards will help organizations enhance their use of technology and social networking, which has become a critical point of contact for hard-to-reach GMT. For example, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (J-FLAG), one of three organizations receiving funding in Jamaica, will develop a smart phone application and improve its web site to provide GMT with better access to HIV testing sites and LGBT-friendly services. Another will work to help create a more hospitable environment for GMT to seek essential HIV and AIDS services and support free from stigma, discrimination and violence. Another group will use social media and theater entertainment to promote HIV prevention as means to reach the at-risk population.
"We're taking the best of what we've learned during the past five years and applying that knowledge, as well as new science, to have a greater impact on the global AIDS epidemic," Klindera said. "We're strengthening our program to challenge public health and other social service systems to better serve the needs of GMT, while continuing to support vibrant community-led programming. We know from experience that larger, systemic changes are best achieved through empowering local communities."
One goal of the GMT Initiative is to support epidemiological research that underpins the need for increased investment in HIV and other health services for GMT. In the Dominican Republic, where GMT accounted for 33 percent of new HIV infections in 2010, Instituto Dominicano de Estudios Virologiccos (IDEV), a Santo Domingo-based organization, will study the prevalence of HPV among GMT. It will also promote HPV and HIV screenings and conduct community outreach to educate the public about anal health and HIV prevention.
Since 2007, amfAR’s GMT Initiative (formerly The MSM Initiative) has made 235 awards totaling more than $4.2 million to support 164 frontline organizations serving GMTs in 78 countries.
"For more than five years, amfAR’s MSM Initiative has been a global leader in confronting the AIDS epidemic among gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals -- populations disproportionately affected by the epidemic in every corner of the world," said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost last fall, when the initiative relaunched. "In renaming the initiative, we are also recommitting ourselves to achieve broader long-term results. Our central goal is to help create an AIDS-free generation among gay men, other MSM, and transgender individuals."
For more information, visit http://www.amfar.org/2013-GMT-Initiative-Community-Awards/#carib