Growing epidemic among MSM Living with AIDS # 385
Studies conducted in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Soweto show that there is a higher HIV prevalence rate amongst men who have sex with men.
Using a small sample of just over 280 men, one of the studies conducted in both Johannesburg and Durban, found that there was an HIV prevalence of over 40% among men who have sex with men. In the Durban and Johannesburg study, 95% of the participants agreed to an anonymous test for HIV.
‘We found that of the 266 men that tested, 44% were HIV-positive’, announced Professor Laetitia Rispel Rispel of Wits University’s Centre for Health Policy, which conducted the research in conjunction with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).
‘It’s more than double the estimates of HIV prevalence among men in the general population. I should say, though, that this is not an unusual finding. Other studies that have been done in other African countries have found the same pattern. Just for example, in Senegal which is the first African country to do a study among men who have sex with men, they found that the HIV prevalence was almost 20 times greater than the prevalence among men in the general population’, added Rispel to explain the high HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men compared to heterosexual men.
A similar study was conducted last year among 370 men in Soweto by Wits University’s Peri-natal HIV Research Unit. But HIV prevalence was much lower, with only ‘10.9 % of the participants testing HIV-positive’, said the programme’s Sibongile Dladla.
In Cape Town, a comparative study involving 200 African and coloured men who have sex with men was concluded in January this year. Announcing the results, Earl Burrel of the Desmond Tutu AIDS Foundation, said ‘the preliminary analysis has revealed an overall HIV prevalence in the sample of 25.5%, with a significantly higher prevalence of 37.3% among black MSM compared to 12.5% among coloured MSM’.
Even though the samples used in all studies are low, the results suggest that ‘there are actually parallel epidemics’, said Wits’ Professor Laetitia Rispel. ‘There’s a heterosexual epidemic, but there’s also a hidden, perhaps forgotten epidemic, among MSM and to a large extent, they have fallen off the agenda over the last 15 years. And the National Strategic Plan actually acknowledges that very little, that nothing is known (about the MSM epidemic). It acknowledges, firstly, that in South Africa it (AIDS) started as a homosexual epidemic and it also acknowledges that at this point in time there is little known about the epidemic among MSM’, she concluded.