Is Cyprus PrEPy? An opportunity that was created by Creating Opportunities Programme
Monica Panayi, Vice-President of Accept Cyprus
Being an activist in a small country like Cyprus can be a herculean task for both ACCEPT LGBT Cyprus (ACCEPT) and the AIDS Solidarity Movement (ASM). A lot of times, the limited access to funding and resources makes our job extremely difficult. Therefore, creating something for the better good is an important achievement.
After realising the major lack of awareness and official access that surrounded our community in regards to PrEP, we directed our attention towards this issue. Also, the rise in HIV infections amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) creates an incentive to taking immediate action. Thankfully our task was made easier by the opportunity given to ACCEPT and ASM by ILGA-Europe’s Creating Opportunities programme.
After being given this opportunity, we were able to put together a two-part plan. This plan included the launch of a questioner campaign of a pre-existing European survey in regards to PrEP that was conducting in 2016, FLASH PrEP. Some of the questions were focused on determining if people in Cyprus knew what exactly PrEP was, the need to have access to PrEP in Cyprus, and finally how they obtained it (if people were already utilising PrEP in Cyprus).
The second part of our campaign will focus on the education and formation of a positive attitude towards PrEP. Of course, the analysis of the results will determine the exact direction of our workshop but nevertheless there will include education for PrEP.
What we are hoping to achieve with this project is generally education about PrEP - but also to create a sense of need of such a prevention tool in Cyprus. Furthermore, introducing PrEP in a non-stigmatising way is part of the objective as well. Since PrEP has yet to be introduced to the majority of the local population, creating a positive cloud around PrEP is vital for further advocacy that needs to occur in the future.
Being PrEP positive should be as simple as one, two, three, to protect yourself from anything that could potentially happen in sexually active individuals. Sometimes we have to introduce something in a positive way and show a form of respect towards people that utilise another tool in the toolbox, and in this case, PrEP is the tool. On the other hand, we have to be careful of the false positive stigma that can occur with PrEP meaning that people might shame you if you are not utilising PrEP. Nevertheless, we are extremely excited to create this workshop/education seminar in regards to PrEP and introduce it to our community.
Again, we are extremely thankful for the time and resources ILGA-Europe has given us and I will encourage anyone that is struggling with limited funding and resources to reach out. LGBTI activists are making the difference for their community on the ground and lack of funding can be proven a major obstacle for their work.
It is amazing what opportunities can arise from programmes like this ILGA’s Europe Creating Opportunities Programme. Furthermore, I strongly believe that exposing yourself to other activists and organisations expands and fortifies your brainstorming ideas. Having an “outer eye” look inside on your project really enhances the potential of your project or campaign.
A lot of great ideas come from collaboration and team work and lead to success. Such success and can result a positive impact for our LGBTI community.