the trends discussed at the recent International
AIDS Conference in Mexico City was the alarming prevalence of HIV
infections among men who have sex with men. MSM, as it's known, is a description
of a behavior and not a homosexual lifestyle. In low and middle-income
countries, HIV infections among men who have sex with men are many times
greater than the rate in the general population. As we learn in this report activists want funding priorities
redirected and are calling for a reversal of the widespread homophobic policies
fueling the epidemic.
thousand people took to the streets in Mexico City in early August for the
first International March
against Stigma, Discrimination and Homophobia. Led by Mexico's Secretary of Health, they
carried banners and handmade signs, and waved multi-colored flags. Their
T-shirts had slogans denouncing repression of people with HIV.
the shade of an orange parasol is an outspoken man from India. With curly brown hair and a long green skirt,
he lives his life as a woman. He says
he's joined drag queens, sex workers and activists from hundreds of non-profit
groups to advocate for the right to health care for people marginalized by
society. "I am over here to contribute to this historic march [in]
solidarity for this cause."
million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. The number of new infections
is growing by 2.5 million a year.
statistics are not lost on Moises Lopez-Calderon, 39, a long-time AIDS activist
in Mexico City. Lopez-Calderon is the
director of a non-profit group
whose focus is on HIV education, especially among MSM.
this afternoon, he is in the Zona Rosa, the center of the gay community in
Mexico City, to survey passersby about a new trend of risky MSM behavior. He stops outside a bar to question a young
man dressed jeans and a checkered shirt. Lopez-Calderon will compile the
answers from many such interviews into a pamphlet for young men, a population
at high risk for HIV infection.
says he can get accurate information back to youth on the street faster than
any government run program. He says
that's because by the time a new administration recognizes a problem and begins
to address it, the elected officials are already out of office. "There is
no continuity, and that is what non-governmental organizations like ours can
provide," he says.
hopes that raising awareness about HIV/AIDS will help reduce the prevalence of
HIV among MSM. In Mexico, men who have sex with men make up one quarter of the
this kind of data that helped amfAR,
the Foundation for AIDS Research, put together a new report on global MSM
trends. The 128-nation report
finds that MSM is a large and growing portion of the AIDS epidemic in every
region of the world, and the least served.
the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, amfAR CEO Kevin Frost
explained that the problem is rooted in long-standing homophobic policies.
"Eighty-six countries criminalize sex between men. More than ten of those
countries have laws which punish sex between men with more than ten years in
prison and seven make it punishable by death."
says that kind of institutionalized homophobia makes it difficult to reach the
MSM population with prevention, treatment and care.
with a systematic review of all published MSM data, epidemiologist and report
Beyrer says the document presents a convincing case for large donors
like the World
Bank, the President's Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief [PEFAR] and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to
redirect their efforts toward helping these men. "And if they are not
included in country proposals for money to go back to the countries and say,
'Why are you excluding men who have sex with men?'"
says failure to provide health care, prevention and treatment for the MSM population
amounts to nothing less than a denial of the basic human right to health care
and ultimately to life itself.