HIV/AIDS program aimed at LGBT, drug users and sex workers launched

Submitted by COC Netherlands

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reserved € 35 million so that LGBT, people who use drugs and sex workers in 16 countries can get easier access to information, condoms, antiretroviral treatment and care. Never before has a country launched such a large HIV/AIDS program aimed at these vulnerable groups. It could mean a huge turnaround in reducing the number of HIV infections in the 16 countries. The 4.5 year program will start in September and be implemented by seven Dutch organizations. As well as the grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the program has been made possible by € 11.7 million from other sources.

Unique Dutch approach
The Dutch government's decision to reserve funds for this project is highly important. It means a continuation of the `Dutch approach' within international AIDS relief where access to prevention and care in combination with the decriminalization of drug use, homosexuality and sex work is central. This is the only way LGBT, people who use drugs and sex workers can get the care they need. The great success of the Dutch approach is recognized internationally.

LGBT as a vulnerable group
Vulnerable groups are 10 to 20 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population. Only 8% has access to prevention, care, HIV treatment and support. Within this program 4.5-year, COC Netherlands and the Schorer Foundation will work with local partner organizations to increase access to information, prevention and care for LGBT. As many countries have legislation that makes access to care difficult or impossible, for example laws that criminalize homosexuality , this program will also have a strong focus on social and legal issues that affect LGBT and the protection of LGBT human rights. At the global level, COC Netherlands and the Schorer Foundation will work closely with organizations such as the Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) and the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+).

16 countries
The overal program will be run in 16 countries; the LGBT program will run in 10: Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Continuation and expansion of existing projects
The program builds on work carried out in recent years. This work can now be continued and expanded. This new program will involve a lot more collaboration in order to be as effective and efficient as possible. Gaps in existing projects will also be tackled.

The Dutch program will be carried out by seven organizations: COC Netherlands, Schorer Foundation, Aids Fonds/STI AIDS Netherlands, Aids Foundation East-West, Global Network of People living with HIV, Health Connections International and Mainline. Together with 102 partner organizations in the 16 countries listed, they will ensure that in the coming years 400,000 LGBT, people who use drugs and sex workers get access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and other support.

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