Australia’s peak national AIDS organisations have welcomed new public health recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that aim to assist policy makers and health professionals scale up access to HIV treatment and prevention services for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people.

The recommendations, which are the first global public health guidelines to focus on MSM and transgender people, encourage the implementation of “anti-discrimination laws and measures to protect human rights and to establish more inclusive services for [MSM] and transgender people based on their right to health”.

The guidelines also call for the scaling up of “behavioural interventions for the prevention of HIV and STIs among [MSM] and transgender people,” and urge HIV positive MSM and transgender people to practise “consistent condom use over choosing partners based on HIV infection status”.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) executive director Rob Lake said AFAO and its member organisations were excited by the new guidelines.

“They confirm that acknowledging and confronting discrimination against gay men, MSM and transgender people is one of the most effective HIV prevention tools available,” Lake said.

“The WHO guidelines call on governments to address laws and attitudes that discriminate against MSM and transgender people, and to identify and remove barriers that limit their access to health services. Governments are also urged to support the development and implementation of community-based campaigns and services that promote, reinforce and enable consistent condom use by MSM, transgender people and their sexual partners. AFAO strongly welcomes these developments.”

National Association of People living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) executive director Jo Watson also welcomed the new guidelines.

“Since the MSM and transgender populations have been disproportionately affected by HIV since the beginning of the epidemic, it is extraordinary that these are the first global public health guidelines to focus on these specific population groups,” Watson said.

“The guidelines will support the delivery of an evidence-based package of interventions across both resource-limited and high-income countries.

They have been put together in a way that guides effective prevention and treatment responses, while also emphasising the need to deal with barriers to quality health care due to widespread stigma and social discrimination.

“Issues of criminalisation, and legal and policy barriers, are also critical and this document highlights the evidence that shows how these barriers play a key role in the vulnerability of MSM and transgender people everywhere, including Australia.”

The guidelines come just weeks after gay men and MSM were acknowledged for the first time in the UN Declaration on HIV following the UN High Level Meeting on HIV in New York.

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