the past five years, amfAR has been serving the HIV-related needs of gay men,
other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender individuals (collectively
referred to as “GMT”) throughout the developing world through its MSM
Initiative, which was recently renamed The
the change in name—meant to better reflect the diversity of those served by the
program—came a strategic shift in focus toward advocacy as an essential means
of effecting real and lasting progress.
“The change is about being more targeted in our grant-making to have a
broader impact,” said Kent Klindera, director of the GMT Initiative.
project called Advocacy in Action, funded by the Levi Strauss Foundation, was a
forerunner of this shift in focus.
Coordinated by both the GMT Initiative and earlier by TREAT Asia, it was
designed to build the capacity of community-based organizations in Asia to
advocate more effectively for improved access to HIV prevention, treatment,
care, and support services for GMT individuals.
The project takes a creative hands-on approach and combines on-site
training and practical experience through tasking organizations with developing
and implementing an advocacy project tailored to their needs and aspirations.
One of the first
Advocacy in Action award recipients, Chengdu Love & Kindness Group, formed
in May 2007 by HIV-positive MSM in Chengdu, China, is a service organization
working to improve the well-being and quality of life of HIV-positive MSM. “Service groups are the best advocates that a
community has,” said Klindera. “They
know the needs of the people and the community better than anyone else.”
Chengdu Love &
Kindness Group determined through qualitative research that the biggest issues
facing people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in their community were the
inconsistency in the costs associated with undergoing routine medical tests and
the high overall costs of managing HIV-related illnesses. The group’s advocacy project aimed to remedy
these issues, and succeeded in generating important changes for their
community. PLWHA in Chengdu are no
longer required to pay a “threshold fee for in-hospital treatment” and the
costs of HIV-related tests are clearly itemized on posted lists, which help
protect patients by ensuring that test fees remain constant between visits.
“Through this project, I have a new
understanding of advocacy,” said Liu Peng of Chengdu Love & Kindness
Group. “In the past I knew nothing about
methods and strategy, but now I know how to identify key problems, use a
variety of targeted advocacy strategies to address them, and achieve desirable