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Worldwide Survey Finds HIV Prevention Services Lacking for Men who Have Sex with Men

A recent worldwide survey of men who have sex with men (MSM) shows that a majority of respondents reported that they find it difficult to access resources that help with the treatment and prevention of HIV. Survey participants reported that HIV testing, HIV counseling, free condoms and lubricant were almost impossible to locate. These findings were released just prior to World AIDS Day December 1, 2010, to illustrate the point that universal HIV prevention and treatment resources are vital to the fight against the disease that continues to devastate populations around the world.[1]
The Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) conducted the survey in collaboration with Dr. Patrick Wilson, assistant professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The project is supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.[2] Published online in Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, the survey included 3,875 MSM and 1,009 MSM service providers from Africa, Asia Australia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe Latin America, North America, and Western Europe—three-quarters of whom had identified that they were from low- and middle-income countries.[3] Among survey participants less than half reported that they had easy access to free condoms while only 25 percent said they had easy access to free lubricant. Another 25 percent of participants stated that they could not find access to free lubricant at all. In regards to HIV prevention information, testing and treatment, 57 percent of participants reported that they had access to HIV testing while 66 percent reported that they were able to access HIV-education materials and 70 percent reported having access to HIV treatment.[4]
Negative prejudices such as homophobia and other discriminatory views associated with having HIV were revealed to be the biggest culprit in the fight to create access to HIV resources and treatment. Participants from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Latin America reported experiencing higher and harsher levels of negative stigma and discrimination toward MSM, often a major barrier in receiving treatment and resources, than men in North America, Western Europe and Australia.[5]
“Stigma and discrimination undermine access to prevention and treatment programs by forcing MSM underground and away from services they may need,” said Othman Mellouk, co-chair of the MSMGF and Advocacy Coordinator for the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) for North Africa. “Without addressing the bigger issue of homophobia, we will have no hope of ending AIDS.”[6]
Dr. George Ayala, executive officer of MSMGF stated that this survey recognizes that the needs of the global MSM population are being ignored, and with dire consequences. “It has been widely recognized that condoms, lubricant, testing and treatment, when combined with community-led-behavior change and support programs, are the most reliable tools available in the fight against HIV among MSM,” Ayala said. “More than 25 years in, it is inexcusable that MSM around the world continue to have such restricted access to these basic lifesaving resources.”[7]
Recent advancements in HIV treatment and resources, such as the medication, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has been proven to reduce the risk of contracting HIV “by an average of 44 percent,” make the results of the MSMGF survey even more disappointing.[8] “With the excitement surrounding PrEP, it can be easy to forget that we already have a rich selection of prevention measures that we know work right now,” stated Patrick Herbert, Senior Education Associate at MSMGF. “We must look seriously at the barriers that prevent MSM in different country contexts from accessing these proven prevention tools.”[9]
MSMGF is planning to release a complete analysis of the survey findings in a comprehensive report in early 2011.
“The results of the MSMGF survey reiterate the great need for an immediate increase in access to resources for prevention and treatment of HIV,” said Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). “We need to finally address the barriers that the global MSM population faces so that we can finally bring down the rates of transmission. It is imperative that we create a way for access to prevention, care, and treatment to become both widespread and easier to obtain.”

[1] Jack Beck, “Groundbreaking Global Survey Indicates Most Gay Men Worldwide Cannot Access Most Basic HIV Prevention and Services,” The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), 29 November 2010, accessed 7 December, <>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “HIV Prevention Programs Worldwide Are Missing MSMs, Survey Finds,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 3 December 2010, accessed 7 December 2010, <>.

[4] Robert Preidt, “Worldwide HIV-Prevention Services Lacking, Survey Finds,” Bloomberg Businessweek Health Day, 2 December 2010, accessed 7 December 2010, <>.

[5] Jack Beck, “Groundbreaking Global Survey Indicates Most Gay Men Worldwide Cannot Access Most Basic HIV Prevention and Services.”

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Study Finds Poor Global Access to HIV Services,” International Daily News, 30 November 2010, accessed 7 December 2010, <>.

[8] “Daily Oral Antiretroviral Reduces HIV Infection Risk In MSM By 44%, Study Finds,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 23 November, 2010, accessed 7 December 2010, <>.

[9] Jack Beck, “Groundbreaking Global Survey Indicates Most Gay Men Worldwide Cannot Access Most Basic HIV Prevention and Services.”