UNAIDS calls for protection of human rights of men who have sex with men and sexual minorities at pre-conference forum
17 July 2010
“The human rights of men who have sex with men and other sexual minorities must be fully protected and respected if universal access to HIV services is to be achieved,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé.
“All people should have equal access HIV prevention, treatment and care services in their countries regardless of sexual orientation,” Mr Sidibé continued.
The Executive Director was speaking during a keynote address to the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), held ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Around 80 countries criminalize same sex behaviour and along with social stigma in many other parts of the world this creates obstacles to HIV prevention. Where men may be afraid to or embarrassed about disclosing their sexual activity, they may also be deterred from finding out what they need to know to reduce their risk or to buy condoms. UNAIDS supports efforts to enforce anti-discrimination legislation, provide legal aid services and promote campaigns that address homophobia.
HIV and men who have sex with men
Unprotected sex between men accounts for between 5% and 10% of global HIV infections. It is the predominant mode of HIV transmission in much of the developed world. Currently, access to prevention, treatment, care and support services is limited compared with the share of the burden faced by men who have sex with men who are 19 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population.
For example while men who have sex with men account for the largest share of HIV infections in Latin America, only a small fraction of spending in the region supports prevention programmes focused on this population.
By ensuring that they are empowered to access and deliver comprehensive and appropriate packages of HIV services and by ensuring that law enforcement agencies and the judicial system protect their rights, men who have sex with men, can protect themselves from HIV and access treatment.
Global Forum on MSM & HIV: Be Heard
The “Be Heard” event explored the challenges and best practices in achieving universal access to HIV-related prevention, care, treatment, and support services for sexual minority communities worldwide. It brought together around 450 human rights advocates, artists, researchers, public health officials, multi-lateral organizations, and global donors for a day of workshops, skills building, information exchange, and networking sessions.
Sessions at the event addressed a range of issues, from HIV prevention, to funding for MSM projects, to engaging MSM living with HIV in the response to HIV, and empowering MSM in Africa.
First convened at the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto, the MSMGF was established in response to a shared concern that current HIV strategies and responses do not adequately address the needs of men who have sex with men.