WHO accused of ‘perpetuating gay stereotypes’ with PrEP announcement

July 15, 2014
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Journalist Patrick McAleenan has questioned the World Health Organisation’s decision to recommend that gay men should consider using antiretroviral drugs as an additional method of preventing HIV infection.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) made the recommendation last Friday in a report.

It said men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population.

The WHO’s Dr Gottfried Hirnschall urged Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be used as an additional method of preventing HIV infection alongside the use of condoms for the group.

But Journalist Patrick McAleenan believes the move could risk stigmatising gay men and described it as a “step backwards”.

He fears it may “encourage straight people to believe that HIV is simply a gay problem”.

Writing on, Mr McAleenan said: “I’m not arguing with those statistics, but I do believe it’s important to challenge the constant message that binds all gay men to the rising HIV epidemic.

“Worryingly, this latest recommendation does nothing to dispel the myth that all gay men are promiscuous, irresponsible or ignorant and regularly play Russian roulette with their sexual health.”

Mr McAleenan continued: “The WHO guidelines feel like a step backwards, promoting a negative gay stereotype that I thought we were moving away from. Let’s be clear: a more relaxed attitude to HIV is not exclusive to the gay community. It’s an attitude that’s become prevalent across all communities.

“The report will encourage straight people to believe that HIV is simply a gay problem, and that they themselves are off the hook.

He added: “I am not against antiretroviral drugs where they are needed. The report correctly highlights that antiretroviral drug use can reduce the chance of passing on HIV by up to 92 per cent.

“However, other studies tell us that, when used correctly, a condom is about 98 per cent effective. Shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts on educating people to use condoms (which are cheaper than drugs and side-effect free) instead?”

The journalist concluded: “A fraction of the cost of investing in vast amounts of antiretroviral drugs would go a long way to creating a programme that educates us all – gay and straight – about responsible sexual health.

“Instead, the WHO appears to have created a situation with a very clear winner (drugs companies) and a very clear loser (gay men).”

Guidelines released at last year’s International AIDS Conference recommended that antiretroviral treatment should be offered to HIV positive patients at an earlier stage in the progression of the infection.

Earlier this year, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) extended its own recommendations on the preventative usage of the PrEP drug Truvada to new groups.

Results of another study released last week showed that the use of PrEP also lowers inflectional rates of genital herpes by 30%.

In the UK, the drug is currently still in its experimental trial period, but some campaigners are already calling for it to be made available on the NHS.

Related topics: gay men, HIV, men who have sex with men, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP

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