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Activists Strategize in Peru

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

In May, AVAC partner Epicentro led a civil society meeting, Activism, Access to Health Services for LGBT and Biomedical HIV Prevention, to develop a plan for engaging with biomedical HIV prevention research occurring in Peru. Local advocates, including MSM sex workers and people living with HIV, participated in the two-day conference. (Download the agenda: English and Spanish.) The objectives were to promote a common understanding of the PrEP and rectal microbicide research taking place in the country and to identify strategies for community mobilization on these issues, HIV treatment and prevention, and LGBT health in general. The resulting advocacy agenda articulated a demand for access to affordable TDF/FTC for treatment of HIV-positive people—an issue that must be addressed before oral PrEP using TDF/FTC in HIV-negative people can be fully explored. It also identified the need for journalist training, sensitization of health workers on LGBT health issues, and general awareness-raising on biomedical HIV prevention.

Communities of gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender women have some of the highest rates of HIV in Peru. Yet access to HIV testing, care and treatment is limited—due to many factors including stigma, lack of gay-friendly services, and lack of awareness of health care rights among affected communities. Advocacy also includes continued support for ARV-based prevention research— the iPrEx OLE open-label extension PrEP study; MTN 017, the first phase II rectal microbicide trial; and early phase vaccine studies. For example, in March, Epicentro, AVAC, IRMA, IMPACTA and MTN organized a community consultation for the pending MTN 017 trial. Most meeting attendees were Lima locals, but there was representation from elsewhere in Peru as well as Paraguay and Argentina.

The next steps are to prioritize and operationalize the objectives generated at the meeting. To join the burgeoning network of local and regional Latin American advocates spearheaded by Epicentro, contact Steve Miralles at stevemiralles@hotmail.com or join the group directly at irma-alc@epicentro.org.pe.

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