South Africa’s Anova Health Institute is deeply saddened by the news that more than 100 AIDS researchers, activists and health workers, who were en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that crashed over Ukraine yesterday. Anova sends condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who have been lost to this tragedy.
A new $7 million grant for the Anova Health Institute’s Health4Men project to address HIV in South Africa’s gay, bisexual and MSM (men who have sex with men) community has been announced in both Washington and Johannesburg. This significant international funding boost to expand MSM-targeted HIV-related services in South Africa is the result of a new partnership between the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
In Washington, Sir Elton John and American Secretary of State, John Kerry, announced the collaboration between the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and PEPFAR to support initiatives focusing on MSM in South Africa.
Sir Elton John said, “As one of millions who have heard the Obama administration’s voice loud and clear on human rights and sexuality, I am enormously proud that my Foundation is now working with PEPFAR to help realise an AIDS-free future for everyone, regardless of who they love or how they love.”
Speaking in Johannesburg, the Anova Health Institute’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor James McIntyre, expressed gratitude to the EJAF and PEPFAR: “MSM remain a neglected key population throughout Africa, including South Africa. This significant funding comes at a time when we are supporting access to competent health services for MSM, free of prejudice, throughout the country in partnership with our Department of Health and the South African National Aids Council (SANAC). It will allow us to extend such access while also implementing a national prevention campaign targeting MSM.”
McIntyre told reporters that the additional funding will augment and significantly extend Anova’s current MSM-targeted initiatives supported by PEPFAR through USAID, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “We look forward to a coordinated national campaign to address all aspects of HIV among MSM in South Africa, the first such opportunity in Africa, which will include both prevention and treatment initiatives. Our Health4Men project, which targets MSM sexual health, has clearly taken the local lead in the design and implementation of innovative strategies to address the health needs of MSM in South Africa.”
Health4Men’s Programme Manager, Glenn de Swardt, expressed excitement at the additional funding but cautioned: “The world will be watching us and we need to get this right. We have tremendous confidence in our highly talented team of sexual health experts. To date we have trained over 3 000 health workers in South Africa, in addition to clinicians from Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, in how to work with MSM. This is one of the most exciting moments in South Africa’s response to the HIV pandemic”.