New HIV/AIDS infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) have been increasing significantly in Chiang Mai. The diverse MSM community in Chiang Mai faces increased vulnerability due to stigma, violence and discrimination which could enhance MSM risk of HIV infection. According to the Thailand Department of Disease Control, ‘the city’s MSM do not have as much access to public health services or medication for HIV/AIDS’ as the general population.
BABSEACLE, in collaboration with our partner organization MPlus+, held a pioneering workshop on legal, sexual and human rights education for Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community on 4 and 5 February in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The workshop was funded by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) and brought together participants from MPlus+, The Open University, Violet Home and Rainbow Sky.
BABSEACLE presented an interactive workshop on a large number of topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and the law and access to health care to sexual violence, discrimination, sexual rights, criminal law and procedure and housing rights.
Participants were thrilled with the use of fun and creative interactive teaching methods in the workshop to provide practical, relevant information. One participant from MPlus+ stated, “I personally face discrimination on a daily basis. I’ve learned a lot about my rights through participating in this workshop. I plan on using this information to educate others in my community about the law and where to go when they need help”.
A follow up workshop to develop a manual in Thai and English on legal, sexual and human rights was held on 10 and 11 February. This manual will form part of the Peer and Outreach Education for Improving the Sexual Health of Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Reference Manual for Peer & Outreach Workers manual. This will provide valuable information to the MSM community about how to access vital free legal counselling services and health care services in the Chiang Mai region.
Mplus+ views the production of the manual as strategic to reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with MSM and HIV/AIDS. It is anticipated that educating people about their rights will lead to improved access to health care and improved sexual health in their communities.
Dr Chris Walsh, a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, believes that initiatives such as these workshops are crucial for Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community because it, “overcomes barriers that deny them access to resources and participation on social, economic, political and cultural relations”.
BABSEACLE and MPlus+ anticipate that this will be the first of many initiatives for improving access to education and healthcare in Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community.
BABSEACLE would like to thank all the participants involved in these workshops, for all their hard work in making the workshops such a success. We look forward to our continued working partnership with Mplus+ to strengthen further outreach and legal education programs throughout Thailand.