It’s bad enough that gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men are left behind in the HIV response despite a very clear story that is being told by the available data. However it is even more disheartening to see young gay and bisexual men and other young men who have sex with men are made invisible in the response.
The 21st Aids Conference takes place in the aftermath of the High level meeting on HIV which adopted a weak political declaration leaving communities behind. The political declaration specifically mentions that over one third of all new HIV infections in the world is among young people. Yet fails to recognize young key populations within whom these new infections are mainly occurring. The epidemic is getting younger and it is crucial that young key populations are bring in to the focus if we want to end the epidemic by 2030.
It is in this context that I hear Dr. Madheep Daliwal from UNDP saying “We are yet to understand about young MSM” at a session titled Changing gears: A Guide to Effective HIV Service Programming For Gay Men And Other Men Who Have Sex With Men In Asia organized by APCOM at the MSM preconference to the AIDS 2016. She further explained that we need to go beyond a simple HIV testing for young MSM and reach to families and communities to address stigma and discrimination that still remains a major barrier to access testing, treatment and care.
There is a vast gap in the data on young gay and bisexual men and other young men who have sex with men that affect targeted interventions towards these communities. The guide launched by APCOM during the session facilitates a young MSM centered approach combining health services, communities and families, internet and schools which will ideally expand the HIV response to young MSM beyond the four walls of a health clinic.
As a young gay man I am not only in need of an HIV test, yet the current HIV response only focuses on providing me with HIV and STI tests and it is exactly this phenomenon we need to understand for an effective HIV and human rights response for young gay and bisexual men and other young men who have sex with men.