WORK AMONG YOUNG MSM IN UGANDA 2009-2012
Young MSM HIV prevention, research, care and treatment in Uganda is done using various forms but three forms of approaches stand out solidly. The first kind is to use safe spaces by MSM-friendly organisations, such as MARPS IN UGANDA, to conduct HIV testing and counselling. The second approach is to train MSM-peers in mobilisation and peer education skills then follow them up regularly. The third is to provide dates, venues for HIV services and health care opportunities using a listserve, text messages or e-mails where MSM can report to anonymously access services. This report is for only beneficiaries from 5 districts where MARPS IN UGANDA has worked targeting young people only.
Objectives of MARPS IN UGANDA 2009-2012:
Improve uptake of safe male circumcision, risk reduction skills and use of lubricants during anal intercourse. This was possible after a safe space with a clinic was established, a strategic plan was drawn and a young MSM Desk established to be led by a young MSM-Peer educator who with the support of 42 other volunteers aged between 17 years to 24 years managed to visit education facilities, other groups, non school going individuals known to be part of the MSM networks, provide lubricant re-fills, share IEC materials and also networking with health facilities. It was envisioned to reach out to 300 young MSM by 2012. This target was overshot by 100 by February 2012. This number was possible through use of small groups, karaoke/talent-show exhibitions, linkage with 27 young person-friendly clinics also able to conduct safe male circumcision and systematic community visits by two medical doctors and 3 counsellors volunteering with MARPS IN UGANDA.
Uganda criminalises same sex behaviour and MSM fall under such behaviour. In this context it is a challenge to conduct health care services. The second most demoralising challenge is from some LGBTIQQ groups that have got funds to address health issues but do not have the capacity. This causes competition for funding and non access to funds for the organisations in position and with capacity. The third challenge is lack of support funds and reliance on volunteers. MARPS IN UGANDA has since inception never received any external support funding yet such support will go a long way to make it a better organisation. The fourth challenge is media outing which shadows organisations which are genuinely doing health programmes among LGBTIQQ, MSM, WSW and other MARPs.
Way forward for Young MSM prevention in Uganda:
It is possible to conduct health care services targeting young MSM if support from donors is provided to all players targeting MSM in Uganda. There are over 12 organisations doing good work but it seems only three or four organisations are supported fully including rent and staff remuneration. Uganda’s health care system does not discriminate any one; therefore with established linkages it is possible to utilize the referral mechanism in place. This requires logistical support in form of transport, telecommunication, paper work and administrative services. This is where support needs to go to. MARPS IN UGANDA is currently responsible for 170 people living with HIV, 150 of whom are on ARVs. 77 are young persons.