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High-Risk Sex Among Those Who "Do Not Exist"

By Christi van der Westhuizen

Cape Town — A study on men having sex with men (MSM) in Malawi shows that, as elsewhere in the developing world, this vulnerable group at greater risk of contracting HIV and AIDS than the general population. Moreover, their risk status is exacerbated as governments fail to target them for health services or information to stem HIV transmission.

The study was presented at the human rights conference of the recent
World Outgames, held in the Danish capital from Jul. 25 to Aug. 1. At the same session it transpired that MSM in developing countries are on average 19 times more likely to be HIV positive than the general population.

In Kenya, in East Africa, 38 percent of MSM are HIV positive, compared to six percent of the general population, according to data provided by the
AIDS Fund of Denmark. In the West African country of Senegal, some 22 percent of MSM are HIV positive compared to less than two percent of the general population.

Surveying MSM

The study in Malawi was conducted among 202 men - a sample of twenty originally recruited from researchers' own contacts and each then asked to recruit nine or ten other men having sex with men for the survey.

The findings contradicted the popular idea that MSM are poor, uneducated and from rural areas - though this may reflect the methodology used to sample: the majority of those surveyed (73 percent) were from Blantyre; 91 percent had tertiary education. However, only 51 percent were employed, reflecting the high unemployment rate in Malawi and that MSM are more likely to be unemployed.

Of those who regarded themselves straight, none were HIV positive. In contrast, 52 percent of those who regarded themselves gay and 47.6 percent of those who regarded themselves as bisexual were HIV positive.

Regarding condom use, 26 percent of those who reported always using condoms were HIV positive; 14 percent of those who sometimes use condoms were HIV positive; and 14 percent of those who never use condoms were HIV positive.

Finally, 13 percent had been arrested; 15.5 percent were "afraid to walk down the street"; and 17 percent had been blackmailed. In all, 12.5 percent of the respondents had been beaten up, of which the vast majority were attacked by police or government officials while a tiny percentage were attacked by a classmate or a sexual partner.

Four percent had been raped, of which only two cases were reported and one led to prosecution.

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AFRICA: Male circumcision slowly taking off



Photo: Mercedes Sayagues/IRIN
Outreach activities are educating households about male circumcision

CAPE TOWN, 23 July 2009 (PlusNews)

- The World Health Organization endorsed male circumcision (MC) as an HIV-prevention measure two years ago, but implementation of large-scale male circumcision programmes has been relatively slow.


Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the need is greatest, have only started drafting policies and strategies to roll out programmes in the past year.

UNAIDS calculated that one HIV infection is averted for every five to 15 male circumcisions, and designed a tool to help countries plan large-scale male circumcision programmes. Catherine Hankins of UNAIDS explained it to delegates at the 5th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Cape Town, South Africa.

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How the Global HIV Response Fails Women and Children

Susan Smith is posting this piece over at Akimbo, detailing the global failure to protect the health of women and children from HIV.  We have a long way to go to break the cycles of abuse, neglect, discrimination, marginlaization, poverty, dehumanization and brutality.

(Image courtesy of Iysanzia)

Earlier this week the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition released, “Failing Women, Failing Children: HIV, Vertical Transmission, and Women’s Health,” a scathing report that criticizes the global AIDS response for failing to meet women’s sexual and reproductive health needs, in particular their need to protect themselves and their children from HIV infections.

In a welcome departure from much that is written on vertical HIV transmission, this report focuses on women’s health and rights not as mothers but as human beings. The report points to the 900 babies who are born with HIV every day in developing countries as one direct consequence of the refusing women the HIV counseling and testing, quality prevention services, and treatment and care that they need and want to protect themselves and their children.

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