Port Louis, Mauritius – On the 15th April 2018, the election for Gay and Bisexual men on the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Mauritius was held. The CCM consists of representatives of a number of stakeholders around the national HIV/AIDS response, such as civil society representatives, government officials, etc. The election process was an open one, held in the premises of PILS (principle recipient for Global Fund in Mauritius for civil society) and saw the participation of some 30 Gay and Bisexual Men of which, a good two-thirds were Gay and Bisexual youths.
The session took place with PILS’s representatives doing a presentation on the stakes of the CCM, its structure, its action and the political dimension of the struggle against AIDS. The responsibilities of the Gay and Bisexual representative on the CCM were also highlighted; the former consisting of bringing needs and issues of the concerned community at the level of the CCM as well as sharing of any pertinent information back to the Gay and Bisexual communities.
HIV-related challenges for Gay and Bisexual Men and Youth
In many countries, HIV has been used as an entry point in ensuring that LGBT people live in better conditions and have their rights respected. Programs such as the Global Fund, PEPFAR, UNFPA, MTV among others have been instrumental in bringing about social change in communities for better acceptance and treatment of LGBT persons. Positive action, such as decriminalisation of homosexuality, greater availability and accessibility towards care and treatment, health systems strengthening, community empowerment, anti-discrimination policies and equal opportunities treatment are lived progress made through these programs.
Similarly, in Mauritius, Gay and Bisexual Men face a number of issues and have aspirations and demands when it comes to HIV namely:
- Decriminalisation of same-sex sexual relationships to reduce associated stigma and discrimination,
- Non-judgmental availability and accessibility of healthcare programs,
- Community-leadership and ownership of programs,
- Availability of and accessibility to new treatments such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), rapid testing, etc., and;
- Considerations for young Gay and Bisexual persons and their relative needs to a more comprehensive and global perspective of Sexual and Reproductive Health (and rights).
However, not all of these needs have been translated into actions over the past years, especially relative to rights, community ownership and hollistic considerations for young Gay and Bisexual persons!
Young LGBT mobilisation was determining for new blood representation
In view of these pressing needs, young people felt that it was time for them to mobilise, engage and act for better representation of their aspirations. Despite the elections being held on a Sunday afternoon, young Gay and Bisexual men mobilised and self-organised to ensure that their voices are heard and their representatives make it through the process. Three persons stood as candidate for the firm and alternate representative. After voting through secret ballot, two young LGBT were successfully returned (the firm alternative grabbing more than two-thrids of votes while the alternative ensuring just above 50% of votes).
Fokeerbux Najeeb Ahmad has been elected as the firm representative to serve on the CCM. Najeeb is the Founder of Young Queer Alliance (YQA) and has over 5 years experience working with LGBT youth. Najeeb previously held positions of responsibility in various organisations such as the Rivière-du-Rempart Youth Centre Advisory Committee, the Youth Action Movement, the Organisation Miss-Roi D’Été, Association VISA-G, Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, We Help You and Jeunesse Militante. Najeeb is currently the Chairperson of the African Queer Youth Initiative; an organisation regrouping young LGBTQI leaders across Africa and is also a member of the Youth Reference Group (YRG) of the Men who have Sex with Men Global Forum (MSMGF). Najeeb also serves on advisory and mentoring capacity at the YQA.