World Health Organization calls for anti-discrimination laws to tackle HIV

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines on HIV in gay and bisexual men and transgender people.

According to the body, there has been a recent resurgence of HIV infection in men who have sex with men, especially in industrialised countries.

Meanwhile, new epidemics are being identified in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Gay and bisexual men are almost 20 times more likely to have HIV than the general population. Among transgender people, HIV rates range from eight to 68 per cent, depending on the country.

New WHO public health guidelines say countries must address discrimination as a factor in high HIV infections and difficulty in accessing treatment.

Laws against gay relationships, social stigma and anti-LGBT violence can all contribute to higher infection rates, experts say.

Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO’s director of HIV/AIDS Department, said: “We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations. We are issuing these guidelines to help countries and communities scale-up the services needed to reduce new infections and save lives.”

George Ayala, executive director of the Global Forum MSM & HIV, added: “Men who have sex with men and transgender people everywhere face huge difficulties in accessing HIV services.

“The guidelines both present evidence for effective prevention interventions for these populations and provide recommendations to help ensure that pervasive barriers like stigma and criminalisation no longer stand in the way of life-saving services.”

Advice includes repealing discriminatory laws, establishing more inclusive health services, encouraging condom use and continuing targeted health projects.