A three-day conference to be held in Cape Town from today will focus on men who have sex with men (MSM) as a key target group to consider in developing policy and interventions for HIV prevention and treatment.
Called Top to Bottom, the timing of the conference couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s just three weeks away from the 30th anniversary of the first-ever diagnosis of AIDS. In 1982, GRID or Gay Related Immune Deficiency was the first name proposed to describe what is known as AIDS today, as the condition was first seen among gay men in America. But soon after, the face of the epidemic changed from that of a gay man. It began to manifest in large numbers in general populations, with women becoming increasingly at risk. The condition was then renamed AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The re-definition inadvertently led to the shift of focus away from gay men but with drastic consequences.
"There has been no government-focused MSM prevention campaign. You don’t see bill-boards that talk about this. You don’t see programmes that talk about this. It is very much a neglected population. I think that some of it is understandable. I think that we moved so rapidly into a generalised epidemic where women were particularly at risk that that’s been the major focus. But I think MSM as a group have been neglected and have been left at very high risk and I think it’s time to stop that" says Dr James McIntyr, Chief Executive Officer of Anova Health Institute, organizers of the conference.
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