Speakers At Panel Discussion Explore Policy Implications Of Findings On HIV Transmission Among MSM

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Thursday hosted a panel discussion focusing on the policy implications of findings published by the Lancet in a special series on HIV/AIDS and men who have sex with men (MSM), the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Barton, 9/7). Chris Beyrer, a professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a contributor to the Lancet series, explained two factors are affecting the expansion of the HIV epidemic among MSM worldwide, according to Inter Press Service. First, HIV “is far more efficiently transmitted through the gut, hence leading to a far higher transmission probability in anal sex, for either a man or a woman — around 18 times more likely than through vaginal transmission,” the news service writes. Second, “because gay men can switch sexual roles in a way that is impossible among heterosexual couples — acting as both the acquisition and transmission partner — the efficiency of transmission among MSM networks appears to be far higher than previously understood,” IPS adds, noting, “These two factors, the new research suggests, account for a full 98 percent of the difference between HIV epidemics among MSM and heterosexual populations.”

“The policy implications of these new findings are both clear and significant, for both Western and developing countries,” IPS writes, adding researchers “who contributed to the Lancet research papers are calling on the international community to increase MSM-related HIV funding five- to tenfold.” According to the researchers, HIV prevention reaches only 10 to 20 percent of the MSM community worldwide, the news service notes. “Two issues that many advocates have highlighted as having received insufficient international focus have been, first, the sensitization of public health practitioners and, second, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights more generally. Both of these issues, researchers say, are central to the hope of continuing to make progress against the AIDS epidemic,” IPS writes. “There is clear evidence from around the world that there is a real mismatch between funding for HIV among gay people and their piece of the pie in the overall epidemic,” Chris Collins, director of public policy at amfAR, said, the news service notes (Biron, 9/7). “This is not a hopeless venture. The science is there, and there is leadership — on the ground and at the top,” Collins said, “Science Speaks” reports (9/7).

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