Warning over high HIV rates in gay African men

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A study in the medical journal The Lancet has warned that HIV rates among gay men in some parts of Africa are ten times higher than their straight counterparts.

According to researchers from Oxford University, stigma and discrimination against gays are to blame for the higher rates.

The researchers looked at papers on HIV transmission on the continent between 2003 and 2009. They found that rates of infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) were substantially higher than in straight men, with some areas showing transmission levels were ten times higher.

They said that social and political attitudes to homosexuality, along with poor access to treatment and testing, were contributing to the higher rates.

According to AFP, the paper said: “Unprotected anal sex is commonplace, knowledge and access to inappropriate risk prevention measure are inadequate and… in some contexts, many MSM engage in transactional sex.

“In the early 1980s, silence equals death became a rallying cry [for the US gay community].

“Nearly three decades later in sub-Saharan African the silence remains, driven by cultural, religious, and political unwillingness to accept MSM as equal members of society.”

The UN agency UNAIDS estimates that two-thirds of the 33 million people worldwide who have HIV live in sun-Saharan Africa.

Figures released from the agency last year show that since 2001, when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15 per cent lower.

In East Asia new HIV infections declined by nearly 25 per cent and in South and South East Asia by 10 per cent in the same time period.