Gay sex on rise in South

Published: October 1, 2011

In what can emerge as a fresh public health challenge, literate young men in southern India are increasingly getting involved in high-risk activity of having sex with men without protection, making them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

Though there is barely any reliable statistics available on the MSM (Men having Sex with Men) prevalence, as many as 8,615 members of the MSM community were interviewed in a new behavioural survey carried out in 15 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

In majority of the districts, HIV prevalence ranged from 5 to 30 per cent among high risk men while prevalence of other sexual diseases in the same community vary from 2 to 20 per cent.

The researchers claimed that actual numbers of the MSM population could be more because it was “representative sample”, which means only about 700 MSM people from each districts were interviewed for the study conducted between 2006 and 2010. The scientists took care to ensure that the same person is not interviewed twice.

The average age of MSM members vary between 24 and 30. Most of them — between 70 and 90 per cent  — can read and write, and almost one-third of them are married. But a very few are circumcised, which has a protective effect against HIV.

The estimates of Indian MSM population vary drastically. While the National AIDS Control Organisation claims it could be 3.5 lakh, the UNAIDS has put the figure at 400,000.

“Its difficult to reach out to that population and map them. There is no enumeration. The study has representative samples to highlight their high-risk behaviour,” Ramesh Paranjape, director of National AIDS Research Institute, Pune, told Deccan Herald.

NARI along with four other institutes under Indian Council of Medical Research, Avahan — Indian HIV/AIDS unit of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — Karnataka Health Promotion Trust and non-governmental outfit FHI 360 carried out the behavioural study.

It reached out to the MSM community in four Karnataka districts — Bangalore (Urban), Belgaum, Bellary and Shimoga.

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