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Global Forum on MSM and HIV, Speaking Out

What we do

In 2009 and 2010 we developed a global advocacy tool kit, designed to provide core capacity-building resources for MSM advocates. From there we began working with Positive Action to pilot, test and implement the Speaking Out programme. This process entails working with local partners to translate and adapt the tool-kit, and then to use it as the foundation for regional training sessions. Next, we fund and provide technical assistance to trainees for breakthrough advocacy initiatives that put the core learnings from the training sessions into action. 

In collaboration with Positive Action along with the Levi-Strauss Foundation and Hivos, we initiated the pilot phase of the project in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) and Central America in 2011 and 2012, and are continuing implementation in these regions for an additional two years. With the support of other funders we are also now implementing the project in Vietnam, supported in part by UNAIDS and the Levi-Strauss Foundation, and beginning expansion into Southeast Asia and East Africa, supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (as of May 2013).

George Ayala, MSMGF2

The Speaking Out project includes four main components or phases:

  1. Tool Kit:

    We began by developing an advocacy tool kit focused on issues related to HIV among MSM. The original Speaking Out tool kit was designed for a broad, global audience – to fill the need for formal training guidance for MSM advocates across the globe – and was available in English only. From there we set out to adapt the tool kit to meet specific advocacy training needs in various regions, beginning with the MENA region and Central America and then in Vietnam.

  2. Translation and Adaptation Process: 

    The first level of engagement as we enter a country is to ask advocates about what's going on locally – about what they're seeing and what is concerning them. We then use that information to initiate a lengthy and intensive process to adapt the tool kit to ensure that it's functional and relevant within the specific cultural and political environments in which it will be used.

    George Ayala, MSMGF3 Working with our local partner organisations, we identify national/regional consultants with expertise in advocacy, MSM, human rights and group facilitation to lead the adaptation of each regional toolkit. The partner organisations and consultants conduct extensive work revising, adapting, translating and developing new content to ensure that each adaptation is appropriate to the specific social, legal and epidemiological context of their country/region, and respectful of cultural nuances.

    This process is something that we consider a vital part of the initiative, as important as the training itself. The training curriculum can only be impactful if it is relevant to the issues that gay men and other MSM are identifying in their communities and to the socio-political realities at play.

  3. Training Sessions: 

    Once the tool kit is translated and adapted, we work with our local partners to hold intensive 5-day capacity-building training courses for local MSM and MSM allies. These trainings are specifically focused on advocacy around issues relevant to the region, and are designed to introduce participants to the advocacy principles of Speaking Out and prepare them to deliver subsequent trainings of their own at local and/or national levels. During these sessions, trainees also develop advocacy campaign ideas through which they can put the Speaking Out advocacy principles to work on the ground to address the most pressing issues in their region.

  4. Breakthrough Advocacy Initiatives: 

    After the training session we provide funding and technical assistance of a breakthrough advocacy campaign, usually one that has been conceptualised during the training itself.

    Noah Metheny, MSMGF4 For example, we've funded two breakthrough advocacy initiatives in Honduras - one focused on advocacy for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Honduran HIV antidiscrimination law, and the other focused on advocacy for the inclusion of LGBT rights in the Honduran government's Social Protection Programs public policy.

    We're also providing on-going technical support to local partner organisations to address stigma and discrimination, and to promote sharing of key lessons learned and updates on evolving advocacy initiatives. Specifically, in the MENA region we established a Listserv to help keep advocates across the region connected and informed. From there, we're hoping to help establish a regional MSM network to facilitate further collaboration and information sharing. The same is happening in Vietnam, where the need for a national MSM network was also identified during the training.

Key Facts

Project: Speaking Out

Run by: The Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF), in partnership with various local organisations at the country and regional levels

Region: The Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) and Central America; with other funders supporting the project in Vietnam, Cambodia and Kenya

Population: Gay men and other MSM; Transgender individuals

Challenges: Stigma and discrimination; policies and programmes that don’t address MSM or transgender people in the context of general HIV outreach; violence and harassment against gay men, other MSM and transgender people; criminalisation of same sex acts, particularly in certain Middle Eastern and North African countries

Activities: Development of a global advocacy tool kit (2009-2010), which was then translated, adapted and contextualised to meet regional and national needs; Implementation of intensive, local training curriculums based on the adapted content; Funding and technical assistance for breakthrough advocacy initiatives conceptualised during the training sessions