Dozens of Asian cities on the cusp of an HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men are missing out on Australia’s unmatched expertise because of an arrangement with the US government.
AFAO executive director Don Baxter said the long-standing agreement, which lets all sexuality-related education and aid fall to US agencies, was always problematic but was now indefensible.
Australia does the needles and the US does the sexuality, men who have sex with men and sex workers, Baxter said.
It’s very short-sighted. There are major deficiencies in what the US does, or rather what it doesn’t allow its funds to do.
It’s disappointing because Australia has great expertise in prevention among gay men with its AIDS Councils and the gay educators.
Baxter said there were more than 50 cities in Asia that were at a critical point in the epidemic, especially among men who have sex with men.
It’s an irony that we’ve got these epidemics at a point in which they could still be stopped or avoided in the Asian cities among men who have sex with men, but we’re not making much use, if at all, of Australian expertise, he said.
The International AIDS Conference in Mexico last week ended with a call for governments to help fight HIV stigma and gender inequality that can hamper treatment and prevention programs.
The voices of those who bear the brunt of this pandemic have been loud and clear in Mexico City this week, conference co-chair Pedro Cahn said in a statement.
If the world does not heed the call to ensure the human rights and dignity of every person affected by HIV, we will not achieve our goal of universal access.
Speakers highlighted a strategy of fighting for a better acceptance of people living with HIV, improving laws and policies to protect those most vulnerable to infection, and community mobilisation and peer support.
All this points to the successful policies with gay men, injecting drug users and sex workers in Australia during the 1980s.