The global battle against HIV was missing the epidemics among gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) due to homophobia, the AIDS 2008 conference in Mexico City this week has heard.

UNAIDS executive director Dr Peter Piot made the comments and also highlighted the particular problems homophobia was causing in the global south countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

We, the UN system, need to move to comprehensive, -˜business-like’ programs to combat homophobia directly throughout the global south, Piot told a meeting on MSM and HIV co-chaired by AFAO executive director Don Baxter.

We’re seeing rates of HIV infection among gay men in global south countries not seen since the -˜invisible’ epidemics in the early 1980s in Australia, North America and Western Europe.

He blamed the homophobia of political leaders in the developing countries for blocking data gathering as well as prevention programs for MSM.

Baxter, meanwhile, called on Australia to dramatically upgrade its reponse to the MSM infection rates, calling them shocking.

Australia’s contribution to HIV funding and expertise in the Asia Pacific region over the last decade has been considerable but only a miniscule portion of this has been allocated to gay/MSM programs, Baxter said.

The World Bank’s Dr David Wilson described the underspending on MSM programs as the missing pillar in the global AIDS response.

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