A new report warns that the continued failure to address HIV/Aids among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) will impact the goal of an “AIDS-Free Generation”.
The report, titled Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM, was released last week by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights (CPHHR) at Johns Hopkins University.
The report finds that resources dedicated to addressing the epidemic among MSM are grossly insufficient, and that funding intended for this population is often diverted away from MSM-related services.
Focusing on eight countries – China, Ethiopia, Guyana, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Viet Nam – the report concludes that national governments have failed to adequately tackle the epidemic among MSM. The findings are especially dire in countries that criminalise MSM, said the report’s authors.
In those settings, governments spend fewer resources on HIV-related health services for MSM, do less to track and understand the epidemic, and are more likely to repurpose donor funds intended to fight the epidemic among MSM.
“These data show an astonishing lack of support for MSM populations around the world, but most especially in countries where MSM are criminalised and persecuted,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost.
“Gay men and other MSM pioneered the global response to HIV in developed countries and have contributed significantly to the development of programs globally. However, they have been mostly excluded from these very services and programs in the developing world.”
According to the report, in countries where homosexuality is criminalised, such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, many MSM forgo seeking medical care out of fear of government-sanctioned punishment. Despite billions of dollars in funding for HIV programs, both countries continue to make international headlines for persecution and violence against MSM.
In addition, monitoring of the epidemic among MSM in many countries is woefully inadequate to determine the true burden of HIV among MSM. This makes it much more difficult for international monitors to assess the needs of MSM in each country, and further complicates allocation and monitoring by donors.
The first recommendation to remedy the situated included in the report is to “decriminalise same-sex sexual practices and publicly support programs that reduce stigma and discrimination against marginalised groups”.
Said Stefan Baral, associate director of the CPHHR at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: “As an international community, we must take these data and work with donors and governments to better address the needs of gay men and other MSM throughout the world. We will never create an ‘AIDS-free generation’ if we don’t get the epidemic under control among MSM.”