Discrimination and a lack of access to health services have sparked an alarming rise in the rate of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in developing countries, a leading American Aids research group said Tuesday.
Studies have found that infection rates are growing among men who
have sex with men in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and less than five
percent of those men have access to HIV-related health care, according
to statistics released by the American Foundation for Aids Research,
"It is estimated that one in 20 men who have sex with men have
access to appropriate HIV prevention, treatment, care and support
services," Kevin Frost, amFAR's chief executive officer, told
reporters. "This is a massive failure of the HIV/AIDS response globally
and I think one that needs to be addressed."
Statistics show the rate of infection with HIV - the virus that
causes Aids - among men who have sex with men growing exponentially in
parts of the developing world.
In Kenya, around 40 percent are estimated to be HIV positive,
compared to a 6 percent prevalence in the overall population, according
to amFAR. In Senegal nearly 22 percent are thought to be infected,
compared to 0.9 percent of the general population.
In Uruguay and Mexico, 21 percent and 15 percent respectively are estimated to
have the disease.
"The frightening truth is that, in many parts of the world, we
simply do not know how bad the epidemics (are) among men who have sex
with men", Dr Chris Breyer, director of the Johns Hopkins Fogarty AIDS
program, said in a statement. "Transmission ... is still not tracked in
A new initiative
Under a new initiative launched Tuesday at the Fourth International Aids Society Conference, amFAR will seek to raise US$300 million (¤217 million) over the next three years to provide grants for Aids education and research among men who have sex with men in developing countries.
The initiative will also aim to raise awareness about the group, who
have typically been left out of AIDS prevention strategies because many
men are married and do not identify themselves as gay or bisexual.
Male-to-male sex is illegal in 85 countries, meaning that the men
who have sex with men often do not receive global Aids funding because
they are effectively marginalised by their own governments, Frost said.
"Empowering (men who have sex with men) and other marginalised
groups to protect themselves from HIV is one of the world's most urgent
health priorities," said Peter Piot, the executive director of the
United Nations' programme on Aids, which is supporting the initiative. – (Sapa-AP)