Sunday, February 15, 2009

Increased visibility: more light shed on MSM in Africa and India

The majority of men who have sex with men (MSM) in three different African countries and in Tamil Nadu State in India also have sex with women, according to two presentations and a poster at the CROI Conference in Montreal.

In Tamil Nadu, HIV prevalence is substantially higher in MSM than the general population and they could serve as a ‘bridge’ for HIV transmission between minority communities and women, researchers found.

In Africa, in the first-ever surveys of their kind, researchers uncovered communities of men with high levels of HIV risk behaviour, including injecting drug use. They found that the already-noted tendency in Africa to have long-term concurrent relationships with more than one partner – one explanation advanced for the high HIV prevalence there – was the same for MSM, with a high proportion of men engaging in ‘bisexually concurrent’ relationships.

Three African countries Chris Beyrer of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore presented updated findings from a programme of surveys of MSM and HIV in a number of African countries. Preliminary findings from the first of these surveys in Malawi were presented at the pre-World AIDS Conference satellite meeting in Mexico City last year – see this report. Beyrer added data from Namibia and Botswana – other surveys are ongoing in Nigeria and South Africa.

In most of these countries there has hitherto been literally no data on MSM, Beyrer said. Male/male sex is illegal and stigmatised, and until recently surveys of MSM would have been impossible. Recently, however, health ministries in some African countries have become more supportive of research and prevention work among this community and local non-governmental and community organisations have been willing to act as local hosts for the research programme.

Read the rest.

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