AIDSTAR-Two Report Calls for Increased Investment in HIV/AIDS Interventions for Men Who Have Sex with Men in Eastern Europe
Report details lack of programs and services in eight Eastern European Countries
BOSTON, MA – Enhanced action at the country and regional levels in Eastern Europe is urgently needed to address the hidden HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men, according to a new USAID-funded report written by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and released today in partnership with Management Sciences for Health (MSH).
The report, "Men Having Sex with Men in Eastern Europe: Implications of a Hidden Epidemic," was produced under the auspices of the AIDSTAR-Two project, a USAID-funded project. By reviewing available data and gathering country-specific information, the report examined the risk of the HIV & AIDS epidemic among the population of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Eastern Europe, and assessed the HIV programming and service gaps for MSM in eight countries: Armenia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine.
"The epidemiological, behavioral, and attitudinal indicators from our study results are reminiscent of the early days of the HIV epidemic among gay men in North America and Western Europe," says Elden Chamberlain, Most At Risk Populations and Networks Specialist for the AIDSTAR-Two Project. "Inappropriate reactions and a lack of prevention in local populations led to a 20% annual incidence of HIV infections being reported. With a few notable exceptions, this was accompanied by a strong resistance from public health officials to address a health issue among gay men. We are seeing a similar situation today in Eastern Europe."
While recognizing the need for better data, the report indicates that HIV among MSM is a driver of the epidemic in the region, and that data from this group is reported infrequently and often inaccurately, so that official figures likely underestimate the numbers of MSM living with HIV & AIDS and acquiring the infection. It further noted that the prioritization for HIV prevention, care and treatment programs for MSM remains low, with funding and coverage levels insufficient to halt the epidemic within this population.
A combination of action and investment by all stakeholders in the global health community can make a dramatic difference in the situation, say the authors of the report. Specific actions that are needed include improving the human rights situation for MSM as a cornerstone of an effective response to the epidemic; strengthening and promoting the evidence base by developing a consistent, regional approach to data collection; and developing a comprehensive package of services for this group that is adopted as a standard practice for the region.
The report was released in advance of a first-ever regional meeting on the topic of MSM in Eastern Europe/Central Asia being hosted by the UNDP, USAID, PEPFAR and the AIDSTAR-Two project in Kiev, Ukraine November 24 -25. Stakeholders are gathering to review the proposed components of a regional package of prevention, care and support services. It is hoped that this meeting will mobilize cohesive support around the issues of MSM and HIV & AIDS in the region.
The AIDSTAR-Two Project offers proven strategies for magnifying the impact of HIV & AIDS programs, delivering organizational capacity building with an emphasis on management, leadership, governance, and organizational development. The AIDSTAR-Two Consortium is composed of Management Sciences for Health; International HIV/AIDS Alliance; Cardno Emerging Markets, USA, Ltd. (Cardno); Health and Development Africa; Initiatives, Inc.; Save the Children; and Religions for Peace.
For more information, visit www.aidstar-two.org.