MSM Remain at High Risk for HIV; Official Data Lacking, Report Finds
Government and global health agencies have failed to adequately address the HIV/AIDS epidemic among men who have sex with men, according to a report by the American Foundation for AIDS Research released Monday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Reuters reports. Although the disease has come to affect women and children as well, the researchers said MSM -- the demographic originally most at risk of HIV/AIDS -- remains at highest risk of infection. According to the report, research has found that MSM are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, yet they are ignored in many countries.
Based on data from 128 countries submitted to UNAIDS, the report also found that 44% of countries failed to provide any data on MSM. According to the report, despite a unanimous commitment that all United Nations member countries made in 2001 to monitor HIV among high-risk groups, 71% of countries said they did not have any information on the percentage of MSM contacted by HIV prevention groups. According to the report, Benin, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya and Thailand are the countries with the highest reported HIV prevalence rates among MSM. Although data were scarce, the study found MSM were 33 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population in Latin America, 18 times more likely in Asia and at least four times more likely in Africa.
AmfAR CEO Kevin Frost said the failure of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the World Bank and other global health organizations to allocate "significant resources toward reducing HIV rates among MSM is indefensible." Frost added, "These organizations have policies on women, drug users, migration -- but not one of them has a comprehensive policy on MSM." Joe Chan of AIDS Concern in Hong Kong said some new cases of HIV/AIDS among MSM were occurring even after they had undergone repeated HIV tests, and counseling. "These are clients who have undergone repeated tests and we find that they are still engaging in unsafe sexual behavior," Chan said (Lyn, Reuters, 8/5).
The report is available online (.pdf).
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