A new health initiative targeting men who have sex with men (MSM) across five provinces was introduced in Durban last week.

The MOSAIC Men’s Health Initiative was launched by Columbia University ICAP at an event held at the Senate Chambers of the University of KwaZulu-Natal – Westville Campus on 28 June.

The initiative aims to provide an integrated package of tailor-made HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services that are responsive to the specific needs of MSM in the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Northern Cape.

The event was attended by representatives from KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, the eThekwini municipality, and civil society representatives.

The proceedings were formally opened by the Mayor’s representative Councillor Brendan Pillay. In his address, Councillor Pillay reflected on reports that “many men find it hard to disclose their sexuality to mainstream health-care workers, and of those that have, reports of homophobic attitudes are common”.

Councillor Pillay went on to add that a great need exists for “targeted services for MSM and for health-care workers in general to receive sensitivity training around the needs of this at-risk group”.

Dr. Siphiwe Mndaweni, KZN Department of Health General Manager for Strategic Health Programmes also gave an address at the launch. She applauded ICAP and its implementing partners for the initiative, and shared her department’s commitment to collaborating to fight HIV among most at-risk populations.

According to ICAP, MSM have been found to be a sub-population that is at disproportionate risk for HIV infection as compared to the general population.

It said that most MSM are “confronted by a range of structural, social and individual risk factors that cumulatively serve to increase their vulnerability to HIV”.

As a result, MSM have been identified within the South African National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB (2012-2016) as a key population to be targeted with different, yet specific interventions in order to achieve maximum impact on the overall epidemic.

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