Unprotected sex among gay and bisexual men is fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS in Asia, public health experts said urging governments to do more to fight the problem.
Discriminatory laws criminalising certain sexual behaviours, such as sodomy, ought to be repealed so these men can more easily obtain information on disease prevention, drugs and treatment, they told an HIV/AIDS seminar this week in Hong Kong.
"Unprotected male to male sex is once again fuelling the spread of HIV infection in the Asia Pacific," Massimo Ghidinelli, regional HIV/AIDS advisor at the World Health Organisation told a news conference today.
"The situation is likely to get worse unless we collectively undertake very urgent action. There is a possibility it may even go out of control."
HIV prevalence among gay and bisexual men in Bangkok rose to 30.7 percent in 2007 from 17.3 percent in 2003. In Jakarta, it increased to 8.1 percent from 2 percent within the same period.
Some countries in Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia and those in South Asia still have in place anti-sodomy laws, which are formidable barriers to people getting treatment and help, and they frustrate efforts at disease prevention, experts said.
"A young (gay) man went to a clinic for treatment and was slapped by a doctor and scolded for being a bad person. The doctor refused to treat him and he was thrown out," said Shivananda Khan of the help group Naz Foundation International.
"It is not uncommon, it happens in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar," Khan told Reuters.
"If (sodomy) is criminalised, it is a problem for doctors. What does the doctor do when someone comes in with an anal problem? He can get into trouble with the law because he is treating someone breaking the law."
HIV PREVALENCE FAR HIGHER AMONG GAYS
In Thailand, HIV prevalence among gay and bisexual men is 24.6 percent, while that of the general population is 1.55 percent. In Cambodia, the rates are 7.8 percent versus 1.8 percent, while in China, it is 3.8 percent versus 0.09 percent, Frits van Griensven at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's Southeast Asia Regional Office said.
"Psychotropic drug (use among gay and bisexual men in Asia) play an important role here. I am not in favour of repression, the control needs to come from prevention. People need to know how to do these things that you can't prevent in the safest way possible. They need condoms on hand and not be caught by surprise," he said at the conference.
The seminar heard how Australia managed to keep its HIV epidemic contained within its gay and bisexual male communities through public education and knocking down discriminatory laws.
"Laws were all looked at (since the 1980s) to make sure that they didn't contradict or hinder HIV prevention work," said Stevie Clayton of the AIDS Council of New South Wales.
emanuel muscat (1 day, 3 hours ago)
It is one way of controlling the amount of gay men around!Sodomy is a crime in many countries and it is an abomination!
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