Peru launches campaign to increase HIV testing among men

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Peru launches campaign to increase HIV testing among men

29 November 2012

Vice-Minister of Health José del Carmen Sara launching the campaign “It is better to know: Get an HIV test.”

In the lead up to this year’s World AIDS Day, the Ministry of Health of Peru in collaboration with Asociación Dignidad, UNAIDS and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), launched the campaign “It is better to know: Get an HIV test.” The initiative aims to increase HIV testing coverage in the country, particularly among men, by providing free HIV tests.

Men aged 18 to 25 years are the main focus of the campaign, which aims to test 10 000 people by 1st December (World AIDS Day). The testing will take place in 16 different venues set up by the Ministry, including in various universities, in order to reach as many young men as possible.

“This is an effort by the Ministry of Health to make HIV testing more accessible for men,” said Vice-Minister of Health José del Carmen Sara during the event.

There are 74 000 people living with HIV in Peru, 77% of whom are men. 56% of new infections occur in men who have sex with men and 9 out of 10 women acquire HIV from their stable partners, who may engage in high-risk behavior such as buying sex or having sex with other men. It is estimated that half of the people living with HIV in Peru were infected before the age of 21.

Although men are at higher risk of HIV infection than women, their access to health services has traditionally been poorer. Despite the fact that 3 of 4 people living with HIV are men, only 7% of men reported having been tested for HIV in 2008. Increased testing would provide greater opportunities for HIV prevention and early treatment.

This is an effort by the Ministry of Health to make HIV testing more accessible for men.

José del Carmen Sara, Vice-Minister of Health, Peru

Peru introduced rapid HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women in 2006, and in 2008 a large scale HIV testing and counseling campaign was organized focusing on women of reproductive age. In the same year the Ministry of Health also increased access to HIV testing and counseling for men who have sex with men, transsexuals and sex workers, but so far HIV tests have only been free for women.

“Half of the people living with HIV in Peru do not know their HIV status. It is important to save lives by increasing access to both HIV diagnosis and treatment,” said Regina Castillo, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Peru and Bolivia.

The launch on November 21st brought together people living with HIV, UN representatives, government officials, journalists, international organizations, and renowned artists, including entertainer and HIV activist Ernesto Pimentel and singer Eva Ayllon.