New city-based HIV strategy in China to address HIV infection among men who have sex with men

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New city-based HIV strategy in China to address HIV infection among men who have sex with men

09 July 2011

Credit: Curt Carnemark/World Bank

Government officials in Chengdu, China, hosted a workshop today to address the city’s rapidly-growing HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM). Participants in the workshop discussed a new five-year strategy that calls for a dramatic scale-up in the coverage of HIV prevention and treatment for the MSM population in Chengdu and promotes the participation of community-based organizations in the city’s response to HIV.

“Cities have a critical role to play in the AIDS response,” said Mr Yang Xiaoguang, Director of Chengdu Health Bureau, speaking at the workshop on 9 July. “By working to build a strong, multi-sectoral response in Chengdu, with meaningful community participation, we can scale up coverage of prevention, treatment and care services among MSM and halt the spread of HIV in our city,” he added. Also joining the workshop were senior officials from China’s Ministry of Health, government officials from Sichuan Provincial Health Bureau, representatives from civil society and Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

According to government figures, approximately 5% of men who have sex with men in China are living with HIV—88 times higher than the national HIV prevalence of 0.057%. In the city of Chengdu, more than 10% of the MSM population is living with HIV. Across China, HIV prevalence is generally higher in cities and urban areas, reaching almost 20% in some south-western cities.

Cities are at the heart of China’s development and progress, and must remain at the forefront of its HIV response

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

“Cities are at the heart of China’s development and progress, and must remain at the forefront of its HIV response,” said Mr Sidibé. “Through bold action to address HIV among men who have sex with men, cities can lead the way to achieving the UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths. We hope that over the next year, many more Chinese cities will implement city-based MSM strategies,” he added.

Approximately one in three new HIV infections in China is among men who have sex with men. However, according to government figures, less than half of the MSM population has access to HIV testing services and less than 15% of HIV-positive MSM who need treatment are receiving it. Chengdu’s new strategy underscores the critical role that community-based organizations can play in reaching men who have sex with men and other populations at increased risk of HIV infection.

Tong Ge, Coordinator of China’s MSM Health Forum and a participant in the Chengdu workshop, noted the importance of ensuring strong cooperation between government and civil society. “By building on the experiences of cities like Chengdu, which already have well developed AIDS responses, we can help to promote multi-sectoral collaboration on an equal, orderly basis and strengthen the response to HIV nationwide,” said Mr Tong. “The next step will be to implement similar strategies in other cities nationwide,” he added.