Better HIV/AIDS Programs for Men Who Have Sex with Men Could Significantly Slow Global Epidemic

Published: June 8, 2011

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2011 – On the eve of a UN summit to renew global efforts to reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic, 30 years after the first discovery of the HIV virus, a new World Bank study urges governments and their development donors to provide better HIV prevention, care, and treatment services for men who have sex with men (MSM) as an essential step toward reversing the global epidemic. More than 25 million people have died of HIV/AIDS since the virus was first clinically identified in 1981.

Written in close partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the new study?Global HIV Epidemics Among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM): Epidemiology, Prevention, Access to Care and Human Rights?provides the first comprehensive economic analysis of evidence that MSM are at significantly higher risk for HIV infection than other groups in many low- and middle-income countries, where fewer than 1 in 10 MSM worldwide have access to even basic HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment services.

 Research among MSM has been limited by social discrimination and the criminalization of their behavior, along with limited funding for HIV/AIDS programs that help MSM. The study suggests that these social factors make MSM vulnerable to HIV infection as well as limiting their access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care.

“We see that in many developing countries, the HIV/AIDS epidemic today looks like the early years of the epidemic in the West in the 1980s, when ignorance and stigma were rampant,” said David Wilson, Global HIV/AIDS Director at the World Bank. “This study provides the best evidence yet that failure to address MSM will continue to thwart efforts to reverse the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

 The study authors identify four scenarios that describe the current state of the HIV epidemic among MSM in low- and middle-income countries, and assess the cost to improve the situation for MSM. The authors conclude that achieving high rates of coverage of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services among MSM has a significant positive impact on the overall trajectory of a country’s HIV epidemic. 

 The four regional scenarios are:  1 – Where MSM have the most numbers of HIV infection in the population (South America); 2 – Countries with large numbers of infections among intravenous drug users, in which infections among MSM are also substantial (Eastern Europe and Central Asia); 3 – MSM risks of infection occur within widespread HIV epidemics among heterosexuals (sub-Saharan Africa); and 4 – MSM, intravenous drug users, and heterosexual transmissions all contribute significantly to the HIV epidemic (Southeast Asia).

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