Mongolian grantee CSHRYH are working to reduce the HIV rate among men who have sex with men. Otgonbaatar Norjinjav tells us how they’re fighting discrimination surrounding HIV among young MSM.
1. Tell us about your organisation…
Our organisation was established in 2008 and we’ve been operating for four years now. Our target group is young men who have sex with men (MSM) in Mongolia because we have many young people infected with HIV and AIDS.
Our organisation reaches out to young MSM and we train them on sexual reproductive health knowledge and how to use a condom to protect themselves from HIV. We also have events on the weekends to support the MSM community, including focus group discussions.
In a bid to raise some funds, we also have a strong fundraising aspect of the organisation, where we tailor and sew handcrafts to sell at the local market.
2. Are there many youth organisations in Mongolia that focus on HIV prevention among men who have sex with men?
We only have three organisations that are working with the MSM community. One organisation that is working is called Youth Health Centre established 10 years ago, and the second is called Together Organisation, established seven years ago. Our organisation is the last one to be established and it’s the youngest organisation in Mongolia. So we only have 3 organisations focusing on MSM in the country.
3. So then how important is your SAF grant to helping you achieve a decrease in HIV prevalence among young MSM?
We are very happy to have received funding from the Staying Alive Foundation in December 2011. That money is now being spent on theatre and role plays in the community to raise awareness about HIV. We target five areas – lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and stigma and discrimination to show the young generation in high schools.
In our role plays we also emphasis the lack of information for HIV positives in our country, because the problem in Mongolia is a big lack information which is making it a problem for young MSM people to coming out and feel free. That’s why the role play shows how to change the younger generations.
4. A major focus of your theatre performances is stigma and discrimination. Is this a big problem in Mongolia for the MSM community?
My organisation has a huge problem with discrimination against the MSM community. We have a problem with the police because we are organising activities for MSM where we distribute condoms and educate about HIV prevention. There is no law for MSM in Mongolia. Is it legal or illegal? We don’t know. We don’t have any laws for distributing condoms and lubricants in public, and therefore the police arrest us and our volunteers. It’s a terrible problem here.
We also have problem with other organisations who don’t agree with MSM. They only want a man to marry a woman.
I love to work with young MSM people to combat this, because I’ve already come out and my family knows about my sexual preference.