Gay men in Africa face stigma, violence and limited access to HIV services
A new report conducted by the Global Forum on Men who have Sex with Men (MSMGF) has discovered men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Sub Saharan region have higher rates of HIV and face homophobia and stigma from health providers.
“MSM in Sub-Saharan Africa have an aggregate HIV prevalence rate of 17.9%, compared to 5% among the general population,” said MSMGF Executive Director Dr. George Ayala.
Yet despite the higher transmission rates, Dr Ayala has reported MSM have less access to services in the Sub-Saharan region.
“Despite the clear need for intervention, the majority of MSM in the region remain unable to access basic resources like condoms and lubricants," he said.
The study draws on data from the recent Global Men’s Health and Rights (GMHR) survey, which included 692 participants across 35 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Of all MSM surveyed in Sub-Saharan Africa, less than half reported easy access to basic services such as condoms, lubricants, HIV testing, HIV treatment or HIV education materials.
Among GMHR respondents from all regions, MSM in Sub-Saharan Africa also reported the highest levels of homophobic violence and the third highest levels of perceived homophobia. Interestingly these same men reported higher levels of connection with other MSM.
“Historically, the communities most affected by HIV have been the first responders,” said Keletso Makofane, MSMGF Senior Research and Programs Associate and lead author of the report. “These community responses have worked to address the social factors that reduce access to services and drive the epidemic. Scaling-up HIV programs among key populations will require partnerships with these organizations to be successful.”
The study concluded that community engagement was crucial to drive the response to end HIV transmission amongst MSM from Sub Saharan populations and that access to basic services must be prioritised.
“After 30 years of AIDS, access to basic HIV services remains out of reach for the majority of MSM in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stigma and violence fuel these disparities, and community engagement works to reduce them,” said Dr Ayala. “Global and local aids responses must design, fund, and evaluate initiatives accordingly. Without attending to the HIV epidemic among MSM and other key populations, we cannot achieve an AIDS-free generation.”