According to the 2012 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report, there’s been dramatic progress in combating the HIV/Aids epidemic around the world, but men who have sex with men remain vulnerable.
The report shows that a more than 50% reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries––more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV.
In some of the countries which have the highest HIV prevalence in the world, rates of new HIV infections have been cut dramatically since 2001; by 73% in Malawi, 71% in Botswana, 68% in Namibia, 58% in Zambia, 50% in Zimbabwe and 41% in South Africa and Swaziland.
In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59% in the last two years alone.
“The pace of progress is quickening—what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months,” said Michel SidibÃ©, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before. It is the proof that with political will and follow through we can reach our shared goals by 2015.”
For example, South Africa increased its scale up of HIV treatment by 75% in the last two years—ensuring 1.7 million people had access to the lifesaving treatment—and new HIV infections have fallen by more than 50 000 in just two years.
The report shows, however, that HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs. HIV prevention and treatment programmes are largely failing to reach these key populations, said UNAIDS.
Around the world, men who have sex with men are significantly more likely to have HIV—on average 13 times more than the general population.
“As global HIV prevalence trends appear to have stabilised there is disturbing evidence suggesting that global HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men may have increased between 2010 and 2012,” said the report’s authors.
New data from surveys conducted in capital cities of 58 countries suggest that levels of consistent condom use are too low among MSM.
Although a majority of surveyed MSM said that they used a condom during their last sexual episode, only 13 countries reported more than 75% consistent condom use, while 58 countries reported between 50%-75% condom use.
The number of MSM who know their HIV status is also low—fewer than one in three tested for HIV in the past 12 months in South and South-East Asia and in Western and Central Europe, regions where sex between men plays a key role in national HIV epidemics.
“To end the AIDS epidemic, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs cannot remain invisible,” said the UNAIDS report .”They have to be counted in.”