Human Rights Considerations in Addressing HIV Among MSM

Published: November 1, 2011


Men who have sex with men (MSM) face a disproportionate share of the HIV epidemic throughout
the world (Baral et al. 2007; Cáceres et al. 2008), and in low- and middle-income countries bear a greater burden of the epidemic relative to the general population. In many countries, the HIV risk to MSM is exacerbated by social, cultural, and political factors. These include cultural biases against MSM, limited access to information and services, low national investments in health, and legal, institutional, or social barriers, including negative bias among providers, that make it difficult for MSM to negotiate safe sex or obtain adequate services for preventing and treating HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This situation is compounded by adverse human rights environments— for example, in settings where same-gender sexual relationships are illegal—where MSM may fail to seek treatment because doing so may lead to harassment, refusal of services, arrest, or violence.

Yet international consensus and recommendations— including the 2011 United Nations (UN) Political
Declaration on HIV/AIDS, to which the United States was a signatory—recognize the vulnerability of MSM to HIV and endorse national and international efforts to include MSM in HIV programming and address discriminatory laws and practices that keep this group from obtaining services. In keeping with this consensus, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has issued guidance on developing comprehensive programming to reduce HIV among MSM.

This AIDSTAR-One technical brief provides a systematic global review and synthesis of practical approaches, program examples, and resources to support human rights as a core element of HIV programming for MSM. The brief complements and is aligned with other global and regional publications that have relevance to human rights, health programming, HIV, and MSM.1 This document gives an overview of U.S. policies on and commitments to MSM and human rights, and outlines recommended approaches, including program examples in various countries, for linking health and human rights to address HIV among MSM. It also offers a synthesis of questions for developing and monitoring
HIV programs for MSM, and a list of program resources.

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