Community report by Leonard Raymond Tooley
Role of MSM communities in rolling out "the WHO 2014 Consolidated
Guidelines for HIV prevention, Diagnosis, treatment and Care for Key
Populations" in the Asia Pacific
Co Chaired by Roy Wadia and Cameron Murphy.
Pengfei Zhao, WHO, and member of the governing
board of Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health APCOM opened the session.
He started by pointing out that there are 25,000,000 MSM in the Asia Pacific Region
(APR), and that many not aware of their HIV status having little or no access
to testing let alone treatment; unsurprisingly HIV infection rates in the MSM
population are by far outstripping that of the general population. It was for
this reason that this special session was going to be dedicated to discussing
the MSM experience in the APR.
Ball of the WHO HIV Department then spoke offering
an overview of the new WHO Guidelines for Key Populations. These Key
Populations (KP) include:
- People in Prisons
- PWID (people who inject drugs)
- Sex workers
- Transgender women
Ball then went on to give present best
estimates of HIV infection rates among each of the key populations. MSM had an
HIV prevalence that was 13x that of the general population in urban areas.
MSM were noted as having poor access to,
and uptake of, HIV and other health services. They also face stigma and
discrimination, a situation that extended to their experiences with the health
sector. Punitive laws and a hostile legal environments added further to their struggles
and significantly impeded access to any HIV-related treatment or prevention
In light of the location of this year’s
AIDS 2014 conference and with so many attendees being present from the APR it
was deemed timely for the WHO to release consolidated guidance to assist in
improving the quality, coverage and equity in services and interventions for
KPs, especially MSM.
Nittaya Phanuphak from the Thai Red Cross AIDS
Research Centre spoke next and she demonstrated that through “normalizing” HIV
testing by the use of “sexy” promos and give aways (incentives) in association
with”Adams Love Online Communication Channels” they could get more men to come in and test
for HIV, and are worth checking out!
These initiatives proved to be so successful there
are plans to roll them out into more of Thailand’s provinces.
N. Phanuphak then spoke further on Thailand’s Recruit-Test-Treat-Retain cascade
and how the “gaps” in this innovative
approach to HIV testing, treatment and adherence to treatment were being
Poonkasetwattana introduced the Asia Pacific
Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), which represents a diverse range of
interests working together to advocate on, highlight, and prioritize HIV issues
that affect the lives of men who have sex with men. He spoke of the need for greater psycho social
support in the MSM community in the APR and emphasized that fighting self
stigma – the “why try?” effect – was key in addressing subjectively experienced
stigma. He argued for improved male sexual health by increased investment,
better coverage and quality of sexual health services for affected communities.
This could be achieved through advocacy initiatives and a coalition of MSM and
transgender community networks.
All in all the message from public health
policy managers and service providers was pretty consistent across the APR. The
need for greater access to testing and treatment, the de- stigmatization of MSM
and the removal of restrictive and condemning laws in the region would significantly
contribute to better health care outcome, particularly with respect to HIV.
It is a pity that this particular session
was so poorly attended, as was noted by the co-chairs of the session, given
the subject’s importance to the region.
Prepared by Tony Judson