by noreen fagan
– Public health officials are worried. In many industrial countries there has
been a recent resurgence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men
(MSM). Data has also emerged showing new HIV epidemics among MSM in Africa, Asia,
the Caribbean and Latin America.
infected with HIV than general populations.
The resurgence has prompted the World Health Organization
(WHO) to release new guidelines on HIV in gay, bisexual and transgender people.
A media release from WHO points to stigma and
criminalization of HIV as barriers to assessing services.
Most of us living on the ground understand that, but it is
good that the world’s public health officials are cottoning onto it. WHO and
its partners now suggest that more inclusive approaches are needed for MSM to access HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care
It is the first time that WHO — and remember that HIV has
been around for 30 years — has put out guidelines targeting a narrow group.
The 21 recommendations are designed to help healthcare
workers and policymakers overcome discrimination so that they can do their job
of offering HIV testing, counselling and treatment.
Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the HIV/AIDS
department at WHO, says that the guidelines address a sensitive issue but
that “it is right to the point and is really critical for the epidemic… we
cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the
specific HIV needs of these key populations.”
He also said, “Certainly, one thing that we know is that
MSM behaviour exists in all cultures. Obviously, the level of acceptance and
cultural mystification varies from culture to culture."
I guess the next step is for WHO officials to knock some
sense into the leaders of certain countries, like Uganda, where discrimination is
so entrenched that it is a disease itself.
Although I think it is great that WHO has put out the guidelines, my question is how are they going to be implemented in
countries where homosexuality is illegal?