Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The IRMA 500: A Virtual Tour of the Rectal Microbicides World!

On March 9, 2008, IRMA expanded its web presence with the first post on the new IRMA blog! We've come a long way, baby...

“It’s about time!” Moments
Since then, over the course of 500 blog postings, IRMA has helped to bring about and bear witness to important shifts in the HIV prevention landscape.

Moment #1: Increasing recognition that gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) not only exist in Africa and throughout the developing world, but that they have disproportionately high rates of HIV nearly everywhere in the world. Studies and reports confirmed this from Africa (including South Africa) to Asia (including India and Laos). We saw an increasing number of events highlight this reality, from AIDS 2008 in Mexico and CROI 2009 in Montreal to IAS 2009 in Cape Town. IRMA helped to organize and present at some of these events (AIDS 2008; IAS 2009).

Moment #2: Increasing acknowledgement that women and men engage in anal intercourse in all parts of the world. As IRMA has shared, studies are giving us a clearer picture of the extent to which women engage in anal sex. The frequency and context within which young women and men in particular engage in anal sex together also becomes clearer with additional studies. We also learn why rectal microbicides could play an important role in prevention.

Moment #3: Including “rectal” in the definition of microbicides. After a range of tactics – from shaming to making a case to recognising to acknowledging to celebrating – it seems the HIV prevention field has embraced the idea that microbicides are products that could be applied vaginally OR rectally to reduce the risk of HIV infection. And that MEN and WOMEN have rectums that need protection.

IRMA blog as a source for new research findings
If you want to learn about the latest developments in the field of rectal microbicides and related areas of study, IRMA’s blog is the place for you! We provide you with links to everything from new assays for predicting the safety of microbicides, summaries of studies in macaques and the latest findings from conferences… not to mention news of sexually transmitted hepatitis C, the effects of treatment on sexual transmission of HIV, and tons of other interesting research.

We also occasionally do informative interviews, such as with Dr. Jim Turpin from the Microbicides Research Branch at the US National Institutes of Health - a key champion of rectal microbicide research.

IRMA's global family
We like everyone in the IRMA family to keep in touch and share news about themselves. The IRMA blog is an excellent way to keep up to date on what our friends are doing in Latin America, Nigeria, the UK and Spain for example. We share photo albums, announce our new Steering Committee, and highlight the work of IRMA members from around the world.

This is also an excellent place to meet all your colleagues: Sholotan (Nigeria), Shaleena (Canada), Craig (US), Henrik (Denmark), Patricia (Peru), Gabriel (Spain), Jeremy (Malaysia), Kadiri (Nigeria), Bill (US), Lanre (Nigeria), Nesha (US), Ayoo (Uganda), Obrian (Zimbabwe), Ross (US), Pamina (US), Rajeev (India), Sean (US), Morenike (Nigeria), Paolo (US), Gail (US), Gus (UK), Anna (US), Ian (US), Arwa (Netherlands)…

Homophobia -- and the efforts to fight it -- from around the world
The state of homophobia around the world makes HIV prevention among gay men all the more challenging. Indeed homophobia is seen everywhere: Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Uganda, Cuba, Iraq… IRMA has shared news about numerous global and local efforts to fight homophobia, including in India, Kenya, Burundi and in fact all of Africa.

Focus on women
IRMA has made it clear from the beginning that we are interested in both vaginal and rectal microbicide development for women and men. As such, HIV prevention issues for women are of interest to us. We are happy to share important information related to vaginal microbicides, women’s anal health and anal sex practices, HIV disease progression and contraception, lesbians, female condoms and circumcision’s impact on women (see section on related prevention issues).

Our most controversial topic: circumcision?
Given the number and nature of comments that have been posted, IRMA thinks circumcision may be the most controversial topic on the blog. Even two years after the trials have been completed, discussions and debates continue about the role of circumcision in HIV prevention and the prevention of other STIs, about whether gay men should be circumcised, about impact of circumcision on women’s risk. Even announcements about circumcision-related information are cause for controversy!

Related prevention issues
IRMA has always been interested in a range of HIV prevention-related issues, including female condom access, female condoms for anal sex, female-controlled STI prevention, serosorting, barebacking, debates surrounding treatment as prevention, HPV-related risk and debates on the HPV vaccine for men.

And last, not least - a few of IRMA’s favourite posts

Just plain interesting! A condom specifically for anal intercourse?

Just plain unacceptable! Funding for rectal microbicides has DECREASED in two years

A good reminder: Caveat Rectum!

Perhaps the most inspiring and informative post: Putting My Ass On The Line…..Literally!

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