Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute that has developed significant expertise in providing access to competent services for men who have sex with men (MSM) in an African context, featured prominently at the recent International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) and its surrounding events.
ICASA is the largest international AIDS conference taking place in Africa and this year South Africa was selected to host the 17th ICASA which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from 7 – 11 December, 2013.
With funding from PEPFAR through USAID, Health4Men has been establishing MSM competent services in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng and the Western Cape since 20008. Reaching more and more people, Health4Men has just received an additional grant from the Global Fund which will allow them to extend their specialised services into KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Free State and the Northern Cape. Professor James McIntyre, CEO of the Anova Health Institute, says: “This significant development will allow for an integrated and co-ordinated national response to HIV among MSM in South Africa.”
Prior to the start of ICASA this year, Health4Men provided the technical input to African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), attended by approximately 30 African organisations promoting human rights for marginalised sexual groupings. Health4Men’s Glenn de Swardt says their project is receiving a lot of interest. “Our team of specialists provided two days of presentations on various aspects of MSM sexual health including anal physiology and health, constructs of human sexuality and the male sexual response cycle. This resulted in various countries requesting us to train their staff, which synchronises with our medium-term plan to lend our expertise gained in South Africa to other African countries.”
Health4Men also provides technical support to other organisations planning to initiate harm reduction programmes (aimed at minimising the potential harms associated with recreational drug use), in partnership with their Dutch partners, Mainline. This was supported by a presentation by Health4Men’s drama group plus an exhibition of posters designed by township-dwelling MSM who are also sex workers, transgendered, drug users or HIV-positive.
At a Health4Men-hosted ICASA session focusing on MSM, Prof McIntyre presented an overview of MSM sexual health in Africa; other Health4Men specialists presented cutting edge findings around the political environment for providing competent MSM sexual health services, competent medical services and best-practice models for community engagement targeting MSM.