amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

GRASSROOTS: The GMT Initiative Blog

Grassroots reports on the work of amfAR-supported research teams and advocates responding to the devastating impact of HIV among gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals (collectively, GMT).

2015 GLAM Awards Promote Lube Access in Latin America

 Permanent link

Posted by Ben Clapham, July 13, 2015

The chances of condom breakage during anal sex increase significantly without the use of silicone- or water-based lubricant.

For the past five years, I have worked with amfAR’s GMT Initiative grantee partners in Latin America, and throughout my travels in the region, I have seen firsthand that condom-compatible lubricants are either completely unavailable, cost prohibitive, or that the act of purchasing them carries stigma because it implies one is LGBT. Improving this access is critical to the fight against AIDS in the region, as the chances of condom breakage during anal sex increase significantly without the use of silicone- or water-based lubricant.

A number of analyses in various settings indicate that due to the high cost or unavailability of condom-compatible lube, many people use oil-based products—despite the fact that oil-based lube signi­ficantly reduces condom effectiveness. Others resort to non-condom-compatible home products like body lotion, soap, and cooking oil, which not only cause breakage, but can also damage a person’s health.

This summer, amfAR is making four new awards in the amount of $5,000 each to help four young and inspiring organizations in Latin America promote and increase access to lubricant for gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals (collectively, GMT)  as part of the Global Lube Access Mobilization (GLAM) project. amfAR began GLAM three years ago in conjunction with Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention (AVAC) and International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA) to increase advocacy for lubricant availability. Awards in past years were made in Africa, so we are pleased to expand to Latin America this year.

lube promo

In June, we launched a call for GLAM proposals from current and past amfAR grantees in Latin America. I then assembled a small panel of peer reviewers living and working in the region to choose the recipients of the 2015 GLAM grants, and they selected Red Nacional de Mujeres Travestis, Transexuales y Transgeneros de Bolivia (RED TREBOL) in Cochabamba, Bolivia;Collaborative Network of Persons Living with HIV (CNET+) in Belize City, Belize; ALFIL Association, HGLBT, Identities in Dialogue in Quito, Ecuador; and Grupo Génesis Panamá + (GGP+) in Panama City, Panama.

ben from amfARamfAR’s Ben Clapham with C-NET+’s Erika CastellanosI have had the pleasure of working with all four of the organizations, and they are each fantastic. Rayza Torriani, the director of RED TREBOL, is a tenacious trans woman who has run for local office in Cochabamba and is known throughout the region as a formidable activist for trans rights. The director of C-NET+, Erika Castellanos, a trans women living with HIV, won a slot as one of four 2015 amfAR HIV Scholars (LINK). Rashell Erazo, the director of ALFIL has already successfully advocated for the Ministry of Health to send a government-paid doctor to their health clinic catering to trans individuals twice a week. And GGP+ director Miguel Sanchez and his entire team have been fearless leaders in improving GMT individuals’ access to health and HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

In all four of these countries, lube provision is not included in the National HIV Plan or in the national budget, so each group plans to use their GLAM grant to conduct a study to assess lube availability—or the lack thereof—in their country and to then use that data as part of an advocacy program to convince their government to institute a lube provision program. I feel confident that these awards will help counter the myriad issues GMT individuals face daily concerning lube access in Latin America.

For more information on strategies for improving lube access, download our GLAM Toolkit, available in both English and Spanish.