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Thailand's MSM Face Alarming HIV Rates

July 22, 2013

Thailand's Ministry of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that HIV prevalence among Thai men who have sex with men (MSM) increased from 17 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2011, based on a survey of 4,800 MSM clients tested for HIV at Bangkok's Silom Community Clinic between 2005 and 2011. The study estimated a 12-percent HIV infection rate among MSM ages 15 to 21. Fewer than 43 percent of MSM study participants reported ever having previous HIV screening. Thailand's National AIDS Management Centre estimated that 41 percent of all new HIV cases in 2012 occurred among MSM.

As a result, the Thai government has begun to redirect HIV prevention funding. In 2009, only 1 percent of Thai government HIV prevention resources targeted MSM, compared with 8 percent in 2011, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. However, external donors still funded more than 90 percent of HIV prevention activities, with nongovernmental and community-based groups implementing most programs among high-risk groups. The Thai government also was considering the use of antiretroviral therapy for pre-exposure prophylaxis with high-risk groups.

HIV Foundation Thailand President Nikorn Chimkong reported that casual sex Web sites and gay nightlife venues fostered the HIV epidemic among young Thai MSM. Outreach programs could provide counseling and condoms at party venues, but it was difficult to reach the target population with behavior change messages through social media, according to Alex Duke, program manager at Population Services International Thailand (PSI). PSI was developing ways to complement peer-based interventions with social media and Web sites.

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Excerpted from:
IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis

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