Health Leaders Call for Urgent Action Against Homophobia and Anti-Gay Legislation

Published: July 18, 2010

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine joined research experts and activists in Vienna to call for protection of the rights of the Men who have sex with men, MSM, around the world if the war on HIV was to be won. But the two leaders fell short of committing their organizations in boosting funding programmes towards programmes that support MSMs.

"We have gone full circle," said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director at UNAIDS, speaking at the opening plenary address. "Our vision of zero AIDS will never see the light unless we end criminalization of people by their sexual orientation."

Stigma and discrimination was highlighted by many of the speakers as a key factor in the rapid spread of HIV among MSM. "As long as gay men are a target of hate, arrest, detainment, and service denial, we will never win the fight against AIDS," said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, during opening remarks.

The call came at BE HEARD, an all-day conference event hosted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) to address soaring global rates of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM). The event featured the unveiling of the Johns Hopkins-World Bank global survey of HIV epidemics among MSM in the year 2010. The study indicated HIV prevalence rates as high as 21.4% in Malawi, 13.8% in Peru, and 23% in Thailand. The data defines the current state of the HIV epidemic among MSM as characterized by ongoing epidemics in low and middle income countries, resurgent epidemics in high income countries, and the discovery of new epidemics in ar as that previously had no data.

The study also showed that higher levels of treatment among MSM would lead to overall declines in the epidemic. "There has never been such an assemblage of data in the field of MSM and HIV before," said Stephen Lewis, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World. "By incorporating MSM into the broad treatment network, we are serving the objectives of the entire population. It makes it 10 times harder for those in the realm of MSM to be isolated, marginalized in the response."

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