The global HIV crisis among MSM and Transgender people

The Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) is sounding the alarm on the unprecedented HIV crisis facing gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people around the world.

Held on July 21, directly preceding the International Aids Conference in Washington D.C., the full-day event is titled “From Stigma to Strength: Strategies for MSM, Transgender People and Allies in a Changing Aids Landscape.”

The event comes at a time when HIV rates among MSM in countries as diverse as Zambia, Jamaica and Mexico have reached 32 per cent, 31 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively.

In the United States, where the conference returns for the first time in 22 years, MSM account for nearly half of all people living with HIV and more than 60 per cent of new infections.

Dr George Ayala, Executive Director of the MSMGF and a speaker at the pre-conference said, “The way we handle HIV among MSM and other key populations will dictate the course of the global epidemic,”

He added, “The major shifts at the Global Fund, persistent affronts to human rights, and the advent of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have each changed the landscape for HIV prevention and treatment. It is crucial that we now take account of these developments and their implications for MSM and transgender people.”

The event will feature plenary addresses by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby, and Dr Kevin Fenton, Director of the National Centre for HIV/Aids, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

The first annual Robert Carr Memorial Speech will be delivered by Jamaican LGBT activist Maurice Tomlinson. Program sessions will cover the latest developments in HIV prevention, treatment, research, policy, and advocacy concerning MSM and transgender people around the world.

Dr Ayala explained, “In the past, the International Aids Conference has failed to adequately address issues concerning MSM and other key populations,”

He said, “Following the 2010 conference, we conducted an analysis that revealed only 2.6 per cent of sessions at AIDS 2010 focused on MSM and 1.1 per cent focused on transgender people. Although we expect to see improvements in this year’s conference, activists are already reporting the rejection of large numbers of high-quality abstracts that address MSM and transgender concerns. The MSMGF is collecting these rejected abstracts to be featured in a new publication that will be released at the pre-conference event.”

He added, “We are facing a global crisis that has been neglected for too long,” adds Dr Ayala. “These issues must be addressed if we are to bring this epidemic to an end. As the largest event of its kind, From Stigma to Strength represents an unparalleled opportunity to take stock of where we are, the challenges and opportunities we face, and to chart a collective path forward.”

More details can be found at www.msmgf.org/aids2012.

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is an expanding network of Aids organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM.

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