amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Mentorships Promote South–South Knowledge and Skills Sharing

In addition to providing financial support, amfAR’s GMT Initiative strengthens the capacity of its grantees through mentoring relationships.  “These relationships assist in making amfAR’s investments go that much farther, by strengthening organizational skills that will last beyond project funding,” said amfAR GMT Initiative Director Kent Klindera. 

Mentorship programs
A meeting at the SOMOSGAY community center in Asunción, Paraguay, currently the only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) center in the country. 

The varying needs of grantee organizations are identified at the outset through an amfAR-conducted technical assistance (TA) assessment.  Specific areas chosen by organizations for development often include financial or program management, or more technical issues such as behavior change communication.  The grantee organizations and amfAR then identify a local or regionally based expert or past amfAR grantee to assist as a mentor over a set period of time.  Most current and past GMT Initiative grantees have benefited from mentorships. 

The GMT Initiative was one of the first donors to the Antigua Resilience Collective (ARC), which was formed in 2011.  As a new organization, ARC lacked a clear strategy to fulfill its mission of facilitating access to comprehensive sexual reproductive healthcare including HIV and STI prevention, counseling, testing, and care and treatment services.  After consultation with ARC, amfAR enlisted Kandasi Levermore from Jamaica AIDS Service for Life, a current and long-term grantee of the GMT Initiative, to help ARC prioritize its resources, identify key objectives, and draft a five-year strategic plan.  Ms. Levermore organized a workshop with ARC staff and facilitated analysis that helped staff achieve these goals.  She continued to provide assistance after the initial training to ensure that ARC successfully used and implemented its new strategic plan.

Mentorship programs
Alternatives-Cameroun’s weekly coordination meeting with executive staff in Douala, Cameroon. 

Alternatives-Cameroun offers outreach, education, social support, and healthcare services and referrals at its comprehensive health center, which serves mainly GMT people in Douala, Cameroon.  When it received its second year of amfAR funding, the group already had in place an effective behavior change communication program that included outreach in bars, clubs, and on the street, as well as online.  However, the organization identified a need to formalize the program in writing.  amfAR enlisted Hortense Me-Tahi, a behavior change communication expert in Togo, as the group’s mentor.  With her guidance, Alternatives-Cameroun developed a peer educators’ curriculum and peer educators’ handbook that serves as a training manual. 

With initial financial support from the GMT Initiative, SOMOSGAY runs the only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community center in Paraguay, as well as a shelter for adolescents and young people who have been driven from their homes by homophobia and violence.  The organization has been a very successful provider of counseling services, voluntary testing, and treatment of STIs; however, a need for strengthened monitoring and evaluation (M&E) was identified.  amfAR recruited Javier Pablo Ana Maria from the Institute of Studies in Health, Sexuality and Human Development (IESSDEH), a Peruvian nonprofit organization and former amfAR grantee, as the group’s mentor.  Mr. Ana Maria helped conduct a needs assessment and collaboratively develop a system of M&E with SOMOSGAY.  He also provided additional technical assistance where necessary once the system was implemented.

Mentorships, such as those described above, promote “South–South cooperation”—the sharing and exchange of knowledge and skills between developing countries, and often result in partnerships that long outlive the grant period. 

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Since 2007, amfAR’s GMT Initiative has been providing financial and technical support to community organizations working to reduce the spread and impact of HIV among gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender people (collectively, GMT).  Through small, targeted grants to grassroots groups from amfAR, the initiative helps expand access to HIV education and prevention services; supports advocacy aimed at increasing funding for prevention and treatment services; and works to end the stigma, discrimination, and violence that threaten the lives of GMT and fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS.  To date, amfAR has awarded more than $3 million to support frontline organizations serving GMT in more than 70 countries.

Related Content 

Cameroon: Alternatives-Cameroun 

Paraguay: SOMOSGAY