Crucial Recommendations Have Potential to Change the Epidemic by Simplifying ART for People Living with HIV and Revolutionizing Prevention for People at Risk
(September 30, 2015)– The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) commends the World Health Organization (WHO) for issuing new guidelines on immediate antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all HIV-positive people and for encouraging the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to all at substantial risk of contracting HIV. Updates to the guidelines are now aligned with the best available scientific evidence and expressed community needs. New recommendations include offering:
- ART for everyone who is living with HIV regardless of CD4 count. The benefits to early initiation of ART are supported by the START Trials; and
- PrEP to anyone at substantial risk of HIV. Clinical trials to-date have shown that, when PrEP is taken properly and the drug regimen is fully adhered to, it can provide nearly complete protection from HIV infection.
This new recommendation paves the way for significant expansion of ARV programs and greater PrEP availability. “We welcome the revised guidelines, especially given the indisputable health benefits of ART given early and used prophylactically,” stated MSMGF Executive Director, Dr. George Ayala. “However, changes to the guidelines do not instantly translate to expanded coverage or access,” cautions Dr. Ayala. “There is much work to do to ensure unfettered access to HIV prevention and treatment programs among men who have sex with men (MSM) and other marginalized populations. We must invest expanding programs that can sensitively serve our community’s needs.”
Rates of HIV infection are disproportionately high among MSM in all regions of the world. MSM are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population. It is estimated that the use of PrEP globally could reduce HIV incidence amongst MSM by 20-25% or more, averting up to 1 million new infections over 10 years. Criminalization, violence, discrimination, and stigma remain huge obstacles for ensuring that MSM receive the services they need and want. We need to pay keen attention to these barriers as we implement treatment expansion globally.
“We must now work to ensure that national HIV programs keep pace with the new guidelines, are accessible, and delivered with sensitivity to the needs of MSM”, urges Dr. Ayala. “We look forward to working with partners to tear down the walls that keep MSM away from the services they want and need.”
World Health Organization (WHO) press release here.
About Us: MSMGF has worked since 2006 to encourage targeted, tailored, better resourced, and rights- based sexual health services for gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide through its advocacy and technical support work. As a global network, MSMGF has successfully influenced HIV responses at the local level through shifts in global-level policies and has effectively utilized public health as an entry point for advancing the human rights of LGBT people. MSMGF currently supports programs in 15 countries.