AP/Google.com Examines Efforts To Reduce Spread of HIV Among MSM
The AP/Google.com on Friday examined new approaches to curbing the spread of HIV among men who have sex with men. A program in North Carolina that showed "promising signs" enlisted local MSM opinion leaders to urge their peers to practice safer sex in an effort to curb the spread of HIV, the AP/Google.com reports. In return for promoting condom use, regular HIV testing and other actions, the leaders were given $25 gift coupons and marketing materials. According to the AP/Google.com, the idea "may sound frivolous, but little else has proven effective for the men most affected by the epidemic." A study of the program, published in June in the American Journal of Public Health, found that more MSM were practicing safer sex. The study was based on repeated surveys over time of about 300 men and found a 32% reduction in unprotected anal intercourse during 2005, as well as a 40% reduction in the number of sex partners.
Although funding for the program ran out and the effort ended in North Carolina, its success led CDC to begin expanding it on a broader scale to more than 200 community groups nationwide at a two-year budget of $1.5 million. CDC also said it has committed $5 million to a five-year social marketing campaign to promote HIV testing among young black MSM. CDC is "committed to ensuring that its resources are going to the populations hardest hit by the epidemic," Richard Wolitski, acting director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said.
The article also examines issues surrounding funding for CDC's HIV prevention efforts. According to the AP/Google.com, CDC's prevention budget has remained at about $700 million since 2001 while costs have risen. In addition, prevention programs that target MSM are "scattershot," the AP/Google.com reports, adding that some experts say even in progressive cities, prevention efforts aimed at the population consist of little more than HIV testing and distribution of no-cost condoms. According to the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, about 42%, or $280 million, of its fiscal year 2007 budget was directed at MSM. However, with 53% of new HIV cases occurring among MSM, some experts have said the funding is not enough. "At a minimum, we need to be matching percentages to where the epidemic is," David Holtgrave of Johns Hopkins University said. Leroy Blea, a health official and past president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said that the MSM community is not "a very easy population to fund. It's often more politically viable to fund programs for women and children and youth" (Stobbe, AP/Google.com, 8/8).