By Syed Akbar
BALI, Aug 13: The Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) will
conduct a full-day forum on August 8 on the unique challenges posed by
HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders
(TG) in the region.
The interactive consultation is an official pre-conference activity of the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP 9) being held in Bali. Authorities from around the world armed with the latest epidemiological data will provide important new insights into the directions the epidemic is taking in the region.
Every 7.5 minutes in Asia Pacific, a man who has sex with men, irrespective of their being homosexual or heterosexual, gets infected with HIV. APCOM, a regional coalition focusing on HIV and MSM of community-based organisations that includes the government sector and the United Nations system, will target its day-long forum squarely on this key affected population.
It will bring together a diverse mix of experts, from developers of national HIV response programmes to scientific researchers to those involved in the UN’s global and regional response to HIV among MSM and TG. They are joined by community leaders from the Asia Pacific region involved in local, national and sub-regional service delivery and community mobilization.
Asia Pacific faces a number of hurdles that make HIV prevention among MSM particularly difficult, including religious and cultural attitudes, legal,
economic and social discrimination, linguistic challenges and varying levels
of awareness. Highly concentrated and severe HIV epidemics among MSM in urban areas across the region are well documented, yet investment in HIV programming for MSM and TG remains limited, ranging from 0% to 4% of the total spending for HIV programming in countries region-wide.
Several major cities across the region are now experiencing HIV epidemics
among men who have sex with men. Recently released data from Myanmar, for example, shows the estimated HIV prevalence rate among MSM in Yangon to be hovering near 30%. In Bangkok, it is 30.7%, Phnom Penh 8.7%, Mumbai 9.6%, and Beijing 5.8%.
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