Governments Should Increase Efforts To Reduce Stigma, Improve Access to HIV Services Among MSM, UNAIDS Executive Director Sidibe Says
Governments worldwide should take action to eliminate stigma and discrimination against men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women and transgender people and improve their access to HIV services, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said recently, the Stabroek News reports. Sidibe added that governments also should create social and legal environments that respect human rights and ensure universal access to HIV prevention and treatment.
According to the News, Sidibe in the statement said that the "failure to respond effectively has allowed HIV to reach crisis levels in many communities of men who have sex with men and transgender people." Efforts to reverse the spread of the virus among vulnerable populations must be evidence-based, grounded in human rights and support efforts to decriminalize same-sex sexual contact, he added, noting that more than 80 countries prohibit same-sex behavior.
According to the News, UNAIDS and the United Nations Development Program have launched a campaign that aims to increase access to HIV services among MSM and transgender populations. UNAIDS estimates that in some regions HIV prevalence among MSM is more than 20 times higher than among the general population. In addition, HIV prevention services only reach 10% to 30% of MSM, the News reports.
The UNAIDS plan outlines several factors that hinder access to HIV services for MSM, including an unwillingness of governments and donors to invest in services for MSM and fear of stigma and discrimination.
Paul De Lay, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said, "Countries must be rigorous in monitoring the evolution of their epidemics and recalibrate their HIV programming to respond to the needs of those most at risk," adding that programs targeting MSM "must be based on local epidemiological and social realities to be effective" (Stabroek News, 5/17).