The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new recommendations to help policymakers and doctors improve access to HIV treatment and prevention services for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people.

WHO said that these are the first-ever global public health guidelines focusing on these specific groups to be released.

“We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO’s Director of HIV/AIDS Department.

“We are issuing these guidelines to help countries and communities scale-up the services needed to reduce new infections and save lives.”

According to WHO, there has been a recent resurgence of HIV infection among MSM, particularly in industrialised countries. Data are also emerging of new or newly identified HIV epidemics among MSM in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Generally, men who have sex with men are nearly 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV than general populations while HIV infection rates among transgender people range between 8–68% depending on the country or region.

WHO said that stigma experienced by many MSM and transgender people is one of the reasons behind this. In many countries, criminalisation of same sex relationships drives such relationships underground, making people afraid to seek HIV prevention and treatment services.

The new guidelines provide 21 recommendations for actions to be taken

“Men who have sex with men and transgender people everywhere face huge difficulties in accessing HIV services,” said George Ayala, Executive Director of the Global Forum MSM & HIV (MSMGF), a key partner in producing the recommendations.

“The guidelines both present evidence for effective prevention interventions for these populations and provide recommendations to help ensure that pervasive barriers like stigma and criminalisation no longer stand in the way of life-saving services.”

The new guidelines provide 21 recommendations for actions to be taken by stakeholders, in close cooperation with MSM and transgender people.

The recommendations including developing anti-discrimination laws and measures to protect human rights and making services more inclusive for MSM and transgender people. WHO also reiterated the importance of condom use and regular testing.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure that the basic human rights of people most at risk of HIV infection are respected and that they have the information and tools to protect themselves against HIV and gain access to antiretroviral therapy if needed,” said Mariângela Simào, Chief, Prevention, Vulnerability and Rights, UNAIDS.

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