October 7, 2001
"Part of the effort to curb the AIDS epidemic must include challenging negative beliefs and behaviours, including the way men view risk and how boys are socialized to become men," said Dr Piot. "Men are expected to be strong, robust and virile -- but these very expectations may translate into behaviours that can endanger both men and their partners." Dr Piot was speaking to journalists at the 6th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, being held here from 5-10 October.
The new Campaign aims to involve men, particularly young men, more fully in the effort against AIDS. It also aims to bring about a much-needed focus on men in national responses to the epidemic and to involve leaders both as politicians and as individuals in taking action against AIDS.
There are sound reasons for men's greater involvement in the fight against AIDS. Around the world, men tend to have more sexual partners than women, thereby putting themselves and their primary partners more at risk from HIV. More than 70% of HIV infections occur through sex between men and women, and an additional 5-10% through sex between men. Another 5% occurs among people who inject drugs, four-fifths of whom are men.
"Men are key to reducing HIV transmission and have the power to change the course of the AIDS epidemic," said Dr Piot. "This year's campaign slogan 'I care . . . Do you?' spotlights the many ways men can bring their influence to bear on the epidemic." These include making sure HIV is not brought into the family, caring for those infected within the family, talking to partners about sex and HIV prevention, and educating children about their sexual health. The Campaign also calls for greater leadership on the part of men, both in the political and family arenas.
While the impact of cultural beliefs and expectations on men is well known, what is less recognized is that these same beliefs heighten men's own vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
"The Campaign encourages men to take better care of their health," said Dr Piot. "With a few exceptions, men have a lower life expectancy than women, and more men than women are living with HIV -- although women are fast catching up. Focusing the Campaign on men also acknowledges the fact that men are often less likely to seek health care than women."
Concentrating on men helps promote their health and well-being, but changing certain masculine attitudes also contributes to enhancing the status of women by empowering them to have greater control over their sexual and reproductive lives. In other words, HIV prevention activities involving men hold the potential to benefit women as well.
Although men need to be encouraged to adopt positive behaviours and to play a much greater part in caring for their partners and families, prevention programmes aimed at women and girls continue to be essential. The World AIDS Campaign aims to complement these programmes and promote a focus on gender awareness and sensitivity for both sexes.
For more information, please contact Leyla Alyanak, UNAIDS, Geneva (+41 22) 791 4451, Dominique de Santis, UNAIDS, Melbourne, (+41 79) 254 6803, Akhila Sivadas, UNAIDS, Melbourne (+91 98) 104 15066, Pensri Tasnavites, UNAIDS, Melbourne (+661) 810 3151 or Andrew Shih, UNAIDS, New York, (+ 1 212) 584 5024. You may also visit the UNAIDS Home Page on the Internet for more information about the programme (http://www.unaids.org).