WHO Issues First Gay and Transgender HIV Prevention Guidelines

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The World Health Organization (WHO) for the first time has developed pubic health guidelines for HIV prevention and care focused on men who have sex with men and transgender people.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) -- including gay and bisexual men and men who identify otherwise -- have borne a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS since the early years of the epidemic. Transgender people are also disproportionately affected.

Men who have sex with men are nearly 20 times more likely to be HIV positive general populations, according to the WHO report, and infection rates among transgender people are estimated to range from 8% to 68%.

While it is well known that gay men account for a large proportion of people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and Europe, the focus of AIDS prevention and care efforts in resource-limited countries has largely focused on heterosexuals, especially pregnant women. MSM have often been left out due to homophobia, invisibility, stigma, criminalization, and related factors. More than 75 countries still criminalize make same-sex sexual activity and transgender people often lack legal recognition.

The new WHO recommendations are intended to help healthcare workers and policymakers overcome negative attitudes and provide appropriate HIV testing, counseling, prevention, and treatment services to MSM and transgender people.

"We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations," said WHO Director of HIV/AIDS Gottfried Hirnschall. "We are issuing these guidelines to help countries and communities scale-up the services needed to reduce new infections and save lives."

"Men who have sex with men and transgender people everywhere face huge difficulties in accessing HIV services," explained George Ayala, Executive Director of the Global Forum MSM and HIV, which helped produce the new recommendations. "The guidelines both present evidence for effective prevention interventions for these populations and provide recommendations to help ensure that pervasive barriers like stigma and criminalization no longer stand in the way of life-saving services."

The full WHO guidelines report is available free online at www.who.int/hiv/pub/guidelines/msm_guidelines2011/en/index.html.

6/28/11

Sources

World Health Organization. Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men and transgender people. June 2011.

World Health organization. Scaling-Up HIV Services for Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender People. Press release. June 21, 2011.

Global Forum on MSM and HIV. MSMGF Welcomes First-Ever WHO Guidelines on HIV Prevention for Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender People. Press release. June 21, 2011.