AMSHeR: Addressing vulnerability of MSM and M2F Trans Women to HIV

AMSHeR is the regional coalition of MSM/LGBT led organizations and other organizations (Mainstream HIV and Human Rights Organizations) that work to address the vulnerability of MSM and Male-to-female transgender women to HIV. AMSHeR is currently made up of 15 organizations from 13 Countries (Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and intend to extend invitations to other countries and organizations to ensure the visibility and representativeness of all aspects of MSM and transgender life on the continent. It is currently the only regional coalition working to address the human rights and health related issues faced by MSM and MTF persons in Africa.

Of all the human rights issues facing men who have sex with men (MSM) and male-to-female transgender persons (MTF) in Africa, the lack of access to health-related rights is perhaps the most pressing. MSM and MTF individuals face a wide array of health concerns and have few advocates. Research findings indicate that with regards to HIV/AIDS, MSM are highly vulnerable while facing substantial marginalization with regards to access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. Consensual same-sex activity remains criminalized in 39 out of 53 African countries. The pressure of anti-homosexuality laws and social stigma leads to heightened problems with exclusion of MSM and MTF from HIV programs as the much-too-often outcome. And we have seen an increasing recourse to coercive measures in the region — Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland etc

As a coalition of African — based and — led MSM organizations, AMSHeR provides a platform for exchange and learning among grassroots MSM organizations, HIV services and advocacy organizations, human rights organizations and other agencies working with and/or for MSM communities. In addition to its work to bring about visibility — and address — MSM and HIV issues, AMSHeR advocates for greater resources for MSM work in Africa; it works to strengthen and develop community structures to address issues such as societal discrimination and stigma, and advocate for positive and inclusive policies and effective interventions.
AMSHeR strives to increase the visibility of MSM issues across various levels such as policy, legislation, communities and service delivery, and strengthen capacities of national agencies and individuals working to improve policy, legislation and programming related to MSM sexual & reproductive health;

The organization has 5 main strategic objectives articulating regional level added value:
– To advocate for the elimination of laws criminalizing same-sex activities and support the enactment and implementation of empowering legislations, policies and practices;
– To promote the availability and access to MSM-friendly HIV prevention, treatment and care services;
– To facilitate the creation and dissemination of an evidence base for efficient programming and advocacy for reducing HIV transmission amongst MSM;
– To advocate for increased funding for MSM/TG and HIV programming in Africa;
– To build and strengthen AMSHeR’s membership and organizational capacity.

AMSHeR is currently hosted in South Africa by OUT LGBT Well-being, a Pretoria-based LGBT health organization. AMSHeR was formed in March 2009, with support from UNDP, Oxfam and IGLHRC. At its formation meeting, Samuel Matsikure (GALZ, Zimbabwe) and Steave Nemande (Alternatives-Cameroun) were elected as the coalition’s co-chairs, David Kuria (GALCK, Kenya) as the treasurer, and Chivuli Ukwimi (FOR, Zambia) as the secretary. This core group of people, in addition to Paul Semugoma (Frank and Candy, Uganda), constitute the executive committee of the Coalition. Joel Gustave Nana is the Executive officer