The African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) is the regional coalition of MSM/LGBT led organizations and other organizations that work to address the vulnerability of gay and bisexual men, Male-to-female transgender women and other MSM, to HIV. AMSHeR is the brainchild of several HIV and human rights advocates following the ICASA conference in Abuja (Nigeria, 2005). Since then follow-up meetings during HIV and human rights gathering were used to bring on board more allies and sympathizers. The need to formally establish the coalition was agreed at the 2008 IAS Conference in Mexico 2008. A consensus workshop to define and agree on the objectives of the new partnership was held in Cape Town on March 16th and 17th, 2009.
AMSHeR is made up of 18 organizations from Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As a coalition of African -based and -led MSM organizations, AMSHeR provides a platform for exchange and learning among grassroots MSM organizations, HIV services and advocacy organizations, human rights organizations and other agencies working with and/or for MSM communities. In addition to its work to bring about visibility and address MSM and HIV issues, AMSHeR advocates for greater resources for MSM work in Africa; it works to strengthen and develop community structures to address issues such as societal discrimination and stigma, and advocate for positive and inclusive policies and effective interventions. AMSHeR strives to increase the visibility of MSM issues across various levels such as policy, legislation, communities and service delivery, and strengthen capacities of national agencies and individuals working to improve policy, legislation and programming related to MSM sexual & reproductive health.
Despite global and local evidence in Africa about the higher vulnerability of men who have sex with men (MSM) to HIV infection, only a few African nations have attempted to put adequate responses in place. Too much time has elapsed to ensure that MSM are considered within national HIV programmes. Africa continues to be the worst performer in the global community's efforts to stem the impact of HIV amongst MSM. The reasons for this state of affairs can be attributed to a variety of factors, which explain the current weak response the HIV related needs of MSM on the continent:
There is a lack of visibility and voice of African MSM
There is very little resourcing for MSM self organized groups and programmes
As a coalition we feel that there is an urgent need to have a common understanding of and clarity on the real issues ourselves (as MSM advocates). We are conscious of the need for African based structures to join the energies of emerging self-organized groups and organizations working to promote the health and rights of gay men and other MSM in the continent.
'African Men for Sexual Health and Rights' will gather the efforts of interested individuals and organizations around the following objectives:
Strengthen capacity of national agencies and individuals working to improve policy, legislation and programming related to MSM sexual & reproductive health
Increase the visibility of MSM issues across various levels such as policy, legislation, communities and service delivery
Identify, advocate and increase access for greater resources, including technical and financial, for better access to prevention, treatment and care services
Facilitate the creation and dissemination of an evidence base for a better public health response on MSM issues
Advocate for the protection of gay men and other men who have sex with men from human rights violations.
These objectives will be delivered in partnership with relevant individuals and agencies working on HIV and human rights issues.
AMSHeR uses a rights-based approach which recognizes the need to protect our members - who often work in repressive environments - with the goal of fulfilling the right to health for men who have sex with men.
AMSHeR will promote an understanding of sexuality and its complexity
We are aware of the complex nature of debates around homosexuality on the continent, the dilemmas of identity versus behavior and the political and social meanings of the words used amongst professionals in the HIV sector. We will work to accommodate definitions which encompass the political, biological, cultural and social meanings of sex between men.
AMSHeR will promote empowering models
...and not 'charity' models. AMSHeR will work to address societal stigma and discrimination. We believe that this is necessary for the creation of enabling environment and for health action to happen. We believe in the need to mobilize men in all their diversities to spearhead this agenda themselves. We will work to put 'people' at the end of numbers... Men who have sex with men are best able to speak for themselves about their needs and issues.
AMSHeR will ensure that all sub-regions of the African continent are represented on the steering committee. AMSHeR will work to ensure a good balance of language and geographical representation from Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, North Africa and Central Africa.
AMSHeR will work towards an empowered and healthy life for MSM in Africa and human rights for all.