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UN issues new guidelines to protect men who have sex with men from HIV

By United Nations
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The United Nations and its partners have issued the first-ever global public health guidelines to help scale up services to reduce HIV and sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men and transgender people.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which issued the recommendations, men who have sex with men are nearly 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV than general populations. In addition, HIV infection rates among transgender people range between eight and 68 per cent depending on the country or region.

“We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations,” said Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO's HIV/AIDS Department.

There has been a recent resurgence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men, particularly in industrialized countries, says the agency. There is also data emerging of new or newly identified HIV epidemics among this group in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure that the basic human rights of people most at risk of HIV infection are respected and that they have the information and tools to protect themselves against HIV and gain access to antiretroviral therapy if needed,” said Mariangela Simào, Chief of Prevention, Vulnerability and Rights at the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The new guidelines provide 21 recommendations for actions to be taken by various stakeholders. It recommends that national policy-makers and health service providers develop anti-discrimination laws and measures to protect human rights and to establish more inclusive services for men who have sex with men and transgender people based on their right to health.

The guidelines – developed over the past year through consultations involving a range of actors – also recommends that affected individuals practise consistent condom use over choosing partners based on HIV infection status.

More than 60 million people have been infected and at least 25 million people have died during the past three decades since the first case of AIDS was reported.

At the recent high-level UN meeting on AIDS, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé stated that the common vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths cannot be achieved without ensuring that vulnerable groups such as men who have sex with men do not face discrimination and have access to life-saving services.