HIV cases rise in 'MSM-friendly' Quezon City

Published: October 31, 2012

A local health official made this observation as she tried to explain the alarming number of HIV-AIDS cases in the city, which purportedly offers a lot of “cruising sites” or places where homosexuals can easily find or hire sex partners.

The proliferation of so-called “MSM” encounters—or men having sex with men—has made the city a high-risk area for contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, according to Dr. Irene Grafil, a coordinator for a program dealing with HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases under the Quezon City Health Department.

QCHD records showed that 266 HIV-AIDS cases were reported in the city from January to August this year. Of this number, 162 involved gay men who said they had engaged in “very risky” MSM relations, Grafil said.

During the same period last year, a total of 181 cases were recorded in the city.

The Department of Health earlier listed Quezon City as one of the six cities with the highest incidence of HIV-AIDS cases in the country. The other five are Manila, Pasay, Angeles, Cebu and Davao.

Grafil said interviews conducted by her team with homosexuals indicated that they find the city to be “MSM-friendly,” or that they feel comfortable and experience less harassment or discrimination in its environs.

The interviews were conducted at the so-called cruising sites frequented by these individuals in the city, which the program’s staff members visit at least four times a month.

Half of the gay men interviewed were from neighboring cities in Metro Manila such as Taguig, Mandaluyong and Makati.

Grafil said gays often hold a “grand eyeball” or a gathering in Quezon City with fellow homosexuals they earlier met online.

They first meet in cyberspace through blogs and social networking sites, which they also use to enter into “transactions.” For their eyeball, they would usually meet at bars and then head to another place, she told the Inquirer in a recent interview.

“I think Quezon City has the most number of gay bars,” Grafil noted. “If you pass by Timog Avenue or Aurora Boulevard, you will see a lot of these bars there.”

She said the other cruising sites in the city for gays are massage parlors, saunas, malls and parks.

The majority of the interviewed gay men are employed individuals aged 25 to 34 years old, who have “extra money” to get the services of male sex workers (MSW), Grafil added.

The city’s social hygiene clinic registry had monitored 600 to 700 MSWs in the city, 42 percent of whom said they are either married or in domestic partnerships with females.

“We are concentrating on them (those with female partners) because if the man gets infected, his partner will also contract the infection. If the woman gets pregnant, it may be transmitted to the baby,” she said. “It is very alarming.”

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