Making Access Real : African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR)

Who are we?

African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) is a Pan-African coalition of organisations led by men who have sex with men (MSM) and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. AMSHeR works to promote non-discrimination, particularly based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), and to advance access to quality health services for MSM/LGBT persons in Africa. As an advocacy and capacity strengthening organisation, AMSHeR provides a platform for exchange and learning among MSM/LGBT community-based organisations, human rights and HIV service organisations, and other agencies working with and for MSM/LGBT organisations. The organisation also advocates for increased resources, community leadership and strengthening of community structures and capacity to address these issues. In Zambia, AMSHeR has one member, Friends of Rainka (FoR), an LGBTI focused organisation. This study relates to the localisation, in partnership with FoR, of the Robert Carr Network Fund project which AMSHeR was implementing in Southern Africa.

What was the issue?
• The LGBTI community in Zambia had not been exposed to knowledge on sexual health, and so its members were engaging in risky sexual behaviors. This led to high HIV prevalence rates within the community, which worsened the national statistics.

• The problem exists because of the hostile: legal environment; traditional, cultural and religious norms; political environment; and media reporting. The anti-LGBTI rhetoric leads to fear of arrest, making LGBTI people reluctant to seek health services.

• Although grassroots LGBTI organisations existed, they had limited capacity to undertake effective advocacy at community level due to the existing law, limited technical capacity and inadequate financial resources.

What was the change we wanted to see?

Change happens when people become informed, and begin to act on what they have learnt. The change we wanted to see was:
• Sexuality education for the LGBTI community, so that they can make informed choices concerning sexual health

• Members of the community displaying health seeking behaviour as a result

• The community being linked to treatment, prevention and care services from LGBTI friendly health care institutions that would provide these services without stigma and discrimination • A community informed about human rights and able to advocate for an end to stigma and discrimination.

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