Men who have sex with men (MSM) are South Africa’s most at risk population for HIV acquisition and transmission. For this reason ‘WeTheBrave’, a sexual health campaign, has been launched with MSM in mind. This will be the first large scale campaign ever in this country to specifically address gay men and other men who have sex with men.
The launch event took place in Newtown, Johannesburg on Thursday 25 June with a who’s who of LGBT and HIV activists in attendance. They were entertained by a performance by Odidi Mfenyana and heard messages from Sir Elton John, Professor James McIntyre, and others.
Spearheaded by the Anova Health Institute, and funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the WeTheBrave.co.za campaign will address both prevention and treatment issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex positive way, which will be entertaining and engaging.
For many years there was a deafening silence about HIV and MSM, but more recently there has been a welcome turnaround in thinking, with Anova’s Health4Men campaign, and OUT LGBT Wellbeing placing advertisements and stories in Exit, on mambaonline.com and other publications.
According to Anova Health Institute CEO Prof. James McIntyre, “MSM are at higher risk for HIV infection for many reasons, including lack of knowledge about HIV and lack of access to early treatment. Several South African studies have shown that as many as one in three gay men in some South African settings are already HIV positive. We have to reach out now to this vulnerable community.”
“We have three main goals with the campaign: ensuring that MSM have the knowledge and opportunities to prevent new HIV infections, that they understand the benefits of regular HIV testing, to know their status and that they use antiretroviral treatment when and if they need it.
The campaign recognises that MSM face stigma, discrimination and even violence, but that they overcome this in their daily lives. The WeTheBrave campaign recognises this and shows these men that they can channel that bravery and strength to overcome the challenges of HIV,” says McIntyre.
The first phase of the campaign will target the Gauteng area, extending later to other centres, but the online and mobile platform will be accessible from the start across the country.
’WeTheBrave’ asks MSM to be brave enough to make healthy sexual choices like wearing a condom, getting tested regularly and knowing their status. The campaign will link to Anova’s Health4Men clinical services in the public sector, in all provinces, and an interactive map will allow men to find the nearest clinic. Alternatively, MSM can find independent clinicians in the private sector through the WeTheBrave website.
In Elton John’s special message for the South African launch, he said “Being a gay man takes courage. You’re brave enough to come out of the closet, defy stigmas, fight stereotypes and face the daily challenges of your sexuality. So I’m challenging all South African MSM to apply this innate bravery to taking care of your sexual health and that of your current and potential partners. There is a window of opportunity before us, a window through which we can very clearly see the end of AIDS within my lifetime. For South African MSM, that window of opportunity is now.”
Watch WTB videos below:
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