The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, registered in Lebanon. LebMASH aims at advancing sexual health for all individuals in Lebanon, with particular focus on LGBT and other marginalized populations. LebMASH has seen a significant growth in the past four years from a handful of board members to a medium size organization with two full time employees, two project managers, a big network of volunteers and a diverse board including experts in LGBT health and sexual health from different health professions. This growth is well reflected in LebMASH’s brand-new website, www.lebmash.org, which has been rebuilt from the ground up.
In addition to providing information about LebMASH, visitors now have access to medical publications, both in Arabic and English, that include information on sexual orientation and gender identity that were published in collaboration with the American Psychological Association and answers to frequently asked questions. “We are glad to finally have an easy to use yet comprehensive website that reflects all our achievements and is useful to both health care professionals and the public” said Dr. Fattal, LebMASH’s outgoing president. LebMASH is also utilizing social media to bring important matters related to sexual health and LGBT health in Lebanon closer to the public. Through photos of volunteers and quotes on the importance of sexual health, LebMASH aims at raising awareness in a way tailored to a wide range of people.
Earlier this year, the organization had launched a video campaign that reached more than 60,000 viewers on Facebook In September 2016, LebMASH celebrated its 4th anniversary and elected its 3rd president, Dr. Omar Harfoush who will commence his duties with the new year. Dr. Harfoush is a graduate of Saint Joseph University Medical School in Beirut, Lebanon. He holds a Masters in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a focus on global LGBT health. He is one of the founders of LebMASH. Prior to joining LebMASH, Dr. Harfoush was closely involved in community based activist work. He served on the executive board of Helem, a Lebanese LGBT rights organization. He also was on the board of the M-Coalition, a regional initiative on improving the access of men who have sex with men (MSM) to HIV prevention in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, he was the coordinator for computer classes at the Migrant Workers Task Force (MWTF) in Lebanon and worked on health initiatives among migrant workers in Lebanon. He brings both the commitment to the needs of the community at large while offering expertise in research methods and different LGBT health topics.
In a written statement that will be released later this year, Dr. Harfoush vowed to continue on the footsteps of the two previous presidents, Dr. Hasan Abdessamad and Dr. Omar Fattal, while continuing the expansion of LebMASH. He emphasized the importance of research and proper needs assessments in guiding LebMASH’s future work. And, he reiterated LebMASH’s commitment to prioritizing its work on improving access and knowledge about transgender care in Lebanon as well as renewing LebMASH’s engagement in confronting the negative effects of conversion therapy, a practice that alleges to change someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity but is actually futile and harmful.