Clear evidence exists that the HIV epidemic in the developing world among men who have sex with men (MSM) is accelerating.
The infection rate among samples of men who have sex with men (and who may be married and have children at the same time - just to make this clear) was reported to be 40% in Nairobi, Kenya, and in a separate study was 28% in Bangkok, Thailand.
Other studies put the rate of HIV among men who have sex with men at 17% in Maharashtra, India, 27% in the Ukraine in Eastern Europe and 21% in Uruguay in Latin America, according to the latest figures compiled by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR).
Without prompt and effective action, other countries may well witness similar acceleration of HIV rates in men who have sex with men, according to Sam Avrett of amfAR.
Avrett, speaking at the Journalist to Journalist programme of the US-based National Press Foundation in Sydney, Australia, ahead of the International AIDS Society conference, said HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly among men who have sex with men in Asia.
“Despite the vulnerability of MSM to HIV/AIDS, insufficient attention is being focused on these communities”. According to a recent amfAR special report, there is a growing epidemic of HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men, with 6 to 8% in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and 8% in Taipei, Taiwan.
Unless rising infection rates are stemmed, gay men in Asia may well face a crisis more devastating than that experienced by gay men in the West during the epidemic’s earliest years, Avrett explained.
Avrett pointed out that globally, fewer than one in 20 homosexual men have access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services.
amfAR will formally launch a new MSM Initiative at the International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment here in Sydney on Tuesday (July 24, 2007).
Among their objectives: support and empower MSM organisations to create safe space for HIV interventions in the face of poverty, homophobia and poor access to health care and to develop locally appropriate, population-specific interventions for prevention treatment and care. amFAR builds awareness and understanding of HIV epidemics and ensures strong policies and increased public funding for HIV interventions by and for the gay community
* Imelda Visaya Abaňo is a Filipina journalist with the Women's Feature Service website and a member of the AIDS Media Network. She is based in Manila.