The Pacific Sexual Diversity Network: Strengthening enabling environments in the Pacific though capacity building and regional partnerships

The Pacific Sexual Diversity Network: Strengthening enabling environments in the Pacific though capacity building and regional partnerships

HIV Australia | Vol. 12 No. 2 | July 2014

By Ken Moala

The Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (PSDN) is a network that has been representing the interests of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people (TG) in the Pacific region since 2007.

The Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (PSDN) is a network that has been representing the interests of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people (TG) in the Pacific region since 2007.

The PSDN is a region-wide network of MSM and TG community organisations and projects and was formed in recognition of the need to develop a more effective regional response to the actual and potential threat that HIV and AIDS poses to MSM and TG across the Pacific.

Currently the PSDN includes representation from Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands with growing ties with Kiribati and the North Pacific (Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia).

PSDN has ongoing partnerships with HIVOS, New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF), ACON, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), and memberships with the International Gay & Lesbian Association (ILGA), Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) and Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM).

PSDN has a strategic plan for 2014– 2019 to which future programs will be aligned. PSDN is incorporated in Samoa and its Secretariat is based in the Kingdom of Tonga.

It is governed by a Board with representation from the various country networks, listed below, which are also PSDN primary program participants.

Tonga Leitis’ Association (TLA)

Tonga (158 members)

Tonga Leitis’ Association (TLA) is an organisation that advocates to reduce discrimination and prevent HIV and STI for leitis2 and vulnerable groups in Tonga.

TLA holds annual awareness programs to raise awareness for condom use and human rights issues for the Tongan community and leitis and other minority groups.

The TLA has established a focal point office and drop-in centre where they hold meetings, workshops and training on issues including human rights, health, and stigma and discrimination.

Samoa Faafafine Association (SFA)

Samoa (200 members)

The Samoa Faafafine Association works for the equality of fa’afafine3 and other sexual minority groups.

The organisation has two key objectives: to promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the elimination of all forms of discrimination; and to advocate for legal and social recognition of fa’afafine and other sexual minority groups in order to properly fit in with society.

SFA works closely with government ministries, such as the Ministry for Women, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice, and with Samoan non-government organisations (NGOs).

The SFA has been the lead advocate for HIV and STI issues in Samoa with assistance from key stakeholders such as PSDN, Samoa Red Cross, Ministry of Health and Ministry for Women.

Rainbow Pride Foundation (RFP) (formerly MENFiji)

Fiji Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) is a not-for-profit community-based network that was formerly known as the Males Empowerment Network Fiji (MENFiji).

The change in name took place in 2012, prompted by the expansion of its networks, membership, and mandate to holistically address the development needs of Fijian people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities and gender expressions.

This includes but is not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) communities.

The current focus of RPF work is on advocating for the sexual health and rights of the Fijian people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities and gender expression, building on the work that was done by MENFiji since 2009 in the area of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Fiji Network Plus (FJN+)

Fiji Network Plus (FJN+) works with over 60 communities around Fiji, reaching over 80,000 people with information about HIV, decreasing stigma and discrimination, promoting Voluntary Confidential Counselling and Testing, and encouraging support for people living with HIV.

FJN+ engages in advocacy activities, including taking a prominent role in all HIV-related events in the country.

FJN+ also provides care and support for people living with HIV through a number of mechanisms: peer support, liaising with health services for improved continuum of care, finding accommodation for people living with HIV who are homeless because of their HIV status, mediation, support from church leaders, reconciliation of HIV-positive people with their families and communities, and assisting members to access financial and housing social welfare support.

Te Tiare Association (TTA)

Cook Islands (40 members)

Founded in 2008, Te Tiare Association (TTA) focuses on LGBTIQ issues in the Cook Islands. TTA partners with the Cook Islands Red Cross and PSDN to develop local approaches for implementing HIV and STI awareness programs.

In 2013, at the 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP 11) in Bangkok, the Cook Islands Minister for Health launched the PSDN Strategic Plan as a step for the Cook Islands Government to address LGBTIQ issues.



Solidarity supports men who have sex with men and the transgender community in Vanuatu, and partners with Wan Smol Bag Theatre – a community-based organisation which implements HIV awareness programs using dramatic arts and a network of peer educators who provide information about sexual health, distribute condoms in bars and nightclubs and encourage MSM and TG to visit the Wan Smolbag reproductive health clinic.

Kapul Champions

Papua New Guinea

Kapul Champions is the national network for men of diverse sexualities (MDS) and transgender people in PNG, and is based in the capital Port Moresby.

Kapul Champions represents men of diverse sexualities and transgender people in national policy and health discussions.

The organisation aims to raise the voices and concerns of MDS and TG through participation in the planning and implementation of HIV services, as well as to promote the protection of human rights for MDS and TG. Kapul Champions was launched in 2012 by the PNG Minister of Health, Mr Michael Malabag.

The organisation operates with funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and receives technical support from AFAO and Igat Hope (the national HIV-positive organisation in PNG).

Kapul Champions works closely with Friends Frangipani (PNG’s national sex worker network), UNAIDS in PNG and PNG Development Law Association.

Kapul Champions is advocating to change laws in PNG that criminalise sex between men. Section 210 (‘Unnatural Offences’) applies criminal sanctions of up to 14 years imprisonment for the act of ‘sexually penetrating any person against the order of nature’ or who any person who ‘permits a male person to sexually penetrate him or her against the order of nature’.4

Section 212 (‘Indecent Practices Between Males’) imposes a charge of up to three years’ imprisonment for acts of ‘gross indecency’ between males.5

Kiribati and Tuvalu

Kiribati and Tuvalu, island nations located in the Pacific Ocean, currently do not have MSM and TG networks established, however there are initial programs that will support basic training of these communities and establishment of community organisations.

Key issues

Despite mounting evidence of the multi-layered determinants of HIV risk among men who have sex with men and transgender people in the Pacific region, there are very few strategic interventions that specifically address the needs of these populations outside the French territories and Guam.

This lack of specific programming can be attributed to a number of factors that include:

  • uncertain epidemiology and lack of data regarding MSM and TG populations and HIV rates
  • laws criminalising homosexuality, which exist in nine countries in the Pacific/Oceanic region6
  • little consideration or understanding of the diversity of MSM and TG sexual orientation, gender identities, preferences and behaviours in Pacific Island contexts and suboptimal utilisation of community knowledge and networks for prevention
  • the lag between the publication of information and data and its utilisation for programming and monitoring n persistence of considerable service access barriers for MSM and TG (including entrenched institutional discrimination in health, education and employment sectors), and little in-depth understanding of these barriers
  • a predominantly ministry of health-led bio-medical approach to HIV programming at national level, leading to an undue focus on quantifying and addressing the proximate factors of HIV risk relating to HIV awareness, risk perception and sexual behaviour, rather than the underlying causes amidst unequal social structures, inadequate legal frameworks and often violent intimate relationships
  • weak engagement of key populations as central actors in the response at national and regional levels, despite the fact that they hold the keys to avert the development of HIV among these communities. This is due to inadequate capacity in administrative and technical skills of the community-based organisations currently involved in the response, the often informal nature of these organisations and networks, as well as the lack of investment in these structures beyond program funding.

Ken Moala is Technical Advisor/ Co-Founder of the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network.


1 The author acknowledges and thanks the PSDN Secretariat, PSDN chairperson, PSDN Board members and their respective organisations, Ferdinand Strobel and the UNDP Pacific Centre for their assistance and input into this article.

2 Leiti is a local cultural term which is inclusive of men who have sex with men, transgender people, gay and bisexual men and non-identifying men who have sex with men.

3 Fa’afafine is a cultural identity that encompasses and reflects the cultural context of sexual and gender diversity in the Samoan society.

4 See:

5 ibid.

6 ibid.