Biennial AIDS conference suffers under-representation of gay men, study says

Published: March 3, 2011

Biennial AIDS conference suffers under-representation of gay men, study says

The International AIDS Conference suffers gross under-representation of populations most at risk from HIV infection, according to a new study.

By James Sanders

AIDS ribbon The International AIDS Conference suffers gross under-representation of populations most at risk from HIV infection, according to a new study.

The claim follows an audit conducted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV,  which says gay men, sex workers and substance abusers need a greater presence at the biennial event.

Produced in response to growing concern among community groups that the IAC has repeatedly neglected these key populations, the report focuses on program content at the most recent IAC, held in Vienna, Austria in July 2010.  The analysis reveals that the percentage of all sessions at the conference exclusively focused on these groups was limited to 2.6 per cent for gay men, 1.1 per cent for transgender people, 3 per cent for sex workers and 4.5 per cent for people who use drugs.

“While the International AIDS Society turns a blind eye, HIV rates among these populations continue to climb around the world,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Officer of the MSMGF.

“The IAC is the world’s most important opportunity for international exchange and collaboration on HIV and AIDS.  Such abysmal representation of most-at-risk groups only serves to reinforce the invisibility, discrimination and disregard that drive the epidemic among these communities.”

Research has shown that these four populations are at higher risk for HIV infection than the general population in nearly every country context where reliable data exist.  MSM represent more than a quarter of HIV infections in Latin America and the Caribbean, people who inject drugs account for more than half of HIV infections in Eastern Europe,  and sex workers across Sub-Saharan Africa experience HIV prevalence rates of up to 50 per cent.

Infection rates among transgender people in El Salvador, Indonesia and India are as high as 25 per cent, 35 per cent, and 42 per cent respectively.

The IAC takes place in a different city every two years, gathering tens of thousands of experts and advocates from around the world to share the field’s most recent developments and engage in strategic collaboration.  The most recent conference hosted an estimated 25,000 people.
 

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