HIV Prevalence Higher Among Gays Yet The Youth League Campaign Ignores Them

I have said this many a times that we live in a country that is plagued by hypocrisy.

Our culture, heritage and even our constitution is reeking of hypocrisy. We see it in our everyday lives and we see it in our politics.

We claim to be a nation built on the principles of Ubuntu yet if you have been living in this country for the past 15 years you will know that Ubuntu is nothing but a farce we tell the world to make ourselves look good.



Our constitution is said to be the most progressive in the entire world, guaranteeing all of SA's citizen basic human rights YET if you are South African you know that not all those rights have been implemented nor does our government have the measures to ensure that they are.

It's all good and well to say one has the right to marry whomever they love but when you do not make provision within state institutions for such to be possible then that policy becomes worthless.










Recently there has been a big hoohah over the ANC Youth League leader's comments about the league's ONE BOYFRIEND, ONE GIRLFRIEND campaign.

Instead of our elected leaders focusing on what those words mean and how to ensure that the message gets across to its intended target, we are embroiled in a silly debate about whether Malema's comments were a dig on our polygamous president.

Are you kidding me? I have to say this is one of the best things Malema has ever said in his entire life (can't believe I have just wrote that). Finally and rather surprisingly, Malema is showing some responsible leadership.

He is a leader of an organisation that represents the majority of HIV infections in this nations. I say kudos to him for seeing the need to do something about that.

Sadly as is always the case, the HIV reduction or eradication campaign by the ruling party's youth league blatantly ignores another sector of our society in its endeavours. Young gays and Lesbian of South Africa are left to fend for themselves as Malema and his party wage a war on HIV.

Though the youth party's efforts are commendable, they will be deemed futile in my eyes if they only serve a particular part of our society while ignoring the other.

Ahhhh... then it came to me... THE HYPOCRISY of Mzansi! So what the youth league is basically doing is saying; WE CARE ABOUT OUR NATION'S YOUTH... AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT GAY. What a slap in the face considering that the GLBT community in SA, though minute it may be, has played some part in putting the ANC in power.

When the ruling party promised FREEDOM FOR ALL, EQUAL RIGHTS TO ALL and etc, the gullible (or to be fair, vulnerable) GAY masses of Mzansi offered their votes. They did this with the hope that the ANC will protect their civil liberties and ensure that we are treated equally under the law.

Boy was that a lot of CRAP... now the very same goverment does not consider you to be worthy of being mentioned when it's trying to save its youth.


Needless to say, the ONE BOYFRIEND, ONE GIRLFRIEND campaign is nonchalant to the plight of ALL South Africans irrespective of the sexual orientation. I am sorry but that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

With that I will use my platform to do something about it. I do not have the power to force the ANC Youth League to include gays in the target for the campaign BUT I can share this information with you and hope it encourages you to start you own ONE BOYFRIEND, ONE BOYFRIEND campaign in your bedroom.

The fact is that young men who engage in same sex intercourse (be they openly gay, on the downlow, after9 or just experimenting types) are getting infected with the HI virus at an alarming rate.

Worryingly, the use of protection among these individuals especially when alcohol is involved is diminished excessively thus leading to the spike in infections. 

This is study that was conducted in 2008, in the spirit of PRIDE 2010, I hope you will read this and think about the choices you make in your sexual escapades



At the 4th South African AIDS Conference, Professor Laetitia Rispel from Wits University and Dr Carol Metcalf from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the principal investigators of the Johannesburg / eThekwini’s Men’s Study (JEMS), called for further research to confirm the findings and specific HIV programmes to address the needs of men who have sex with men (MSM). 

JEMS was conducted by Wits, the HSRC and the Medical Research Council during 2008 to provide preliminary information on the epidemiology of HIV among MSM in Johannesburg and eThekwini (Durban), and to review
the availability of programmes and services to MSM. 

The study, which had approval from research ethics committees at the HSRC and Wits, used respondent-driven sampling (RDS) to recruit 285 men from Johannesburg and Durban into a survey. RDS is a method of recruitment
used to obtain representative samples of hidden, hard-to-reach populations. 

All those who consented completed a questionnaire and provided finger-prick blood specimens for anonymous HIV testing in a laboratory. Participants who did not know their HIV status were offered free, on-site voluntary
counselling and testing (VCT). 

The survey was complemented with qualitative interviews with 32 key informants and approximately 150 men who participated in focus group discussions. 

All men in the survey had had sex with at least one other man in the past year. 

Their age ranged from 18 years to 61 years, with an average age of 24 years. 
The majority were black Africans (88%), under 25 years of age (67%) and identified as being homosexual/gay (78%). 

HIV prevalence among survey participants

Of the 266 men tested for HIV in the survey, 44% were HIV-positive. This is more than double estimates of HIV prevalence estimates among men in the general population. 



Although the results of JEMS cannot be generalised to all MSM in South Africa or in the two cities, these findings are a cause for concern and support evidence from studies in other countries with generalised HIV epidemics of a “hidden epidemic” of HIV among MSM. 

Just over half the participants (57%) reported that they “knew” their HIV status, but only two-thirds of those who knew their status had disclosed their status to a sexual partner in the past year. 

Other important findings were that high-risk sexual behaviour was widespread; perception of risk was relatively low; and that current policies, programmes and services are not responsive to the HIV prevention and care needs of MSM.






Factors that contribute to HIV risk 
  • High-risk sexual behaviour was widespread among survey participants. 
  • HIV-negative men reported an average of 5 partners in the past year, and HIV-positive men reported an average of 7.5 partners in the past year. 
  • Almost one in two participants reported having unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in the past year.
  •  Compared to HIV-negative participants, HIV-positive participants were more than twice as likely to have had receptive UAI in the past year.  
  • Condom unavailability and condom accidents were common, with 55% of participants reporting not having had a condom available when they needed one, 42% reporting at least one instance of condom slippage, and 58% reporting an instance of condom breakage in the past year. 
  • In addition, many participants reported having used substances that reduce the protective effect of condoms, including Vaseline (32%), lotion (28%). 
  • The majority of participants (73%) reported having had sex while under the influene of alcohol in the past year, with no significant difference by HIV status. 
  • Availability of HIV prevention, testing and counselling, treatment and care services for MSM 
  • The majority of survey participants (57%) had used public health services in the past year. More than two-thirds (69%) reported that they did not have medical aid. However only 7% of participants reported that they would prefer to receive HIV-prevention services from a government health service, than from other proposed service providers. 
  • Qualitative interviews found that most health programmes targeting MSM were provided by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations in large cities. Existing programmes had limited capacity and resources, and provided services to a very limited number of men. Many key informants and focus group participants reported that health workers often display negative and judgemental attitudes towards MSM, or tailor their clinical management exclusively towards heterosexuals. This made some men reluctant to use health care services. Due to persisting stigmatisation of homosexuality, some MSM feared to disclose their sexual practices and sexual identity to health workers. 

Use of voluntary HIV testing and counselling (VCT) and prevention services 

Key informant interviews and focus group discussions found that many MSM are reluctant to be tested for HIV. Although 98% of survey participants knew where they could be tested for HIV, only 48% had been tested for HIV in the past year and given the result. Only 25 (9%) of participants chose to have VCT, offered as part of the survey. However, almost all participants expressed an interest in attending a workshop (97%) or individual counselling (92%) on HIV prevention.



Recommendations:

1. Establish ongoing surveillance of the HIV epidemic among MSM, coordinated by government with the support of researchers.

2. Develop and implement a minimum package of services for MSM. This should include at least:

• STI diagnosis and treatment and HIV treatment, care and support services; • Behaviour change communication campaigns targeting MSM; • Condom promotion and distribution, extending beyond health-care settings, coupled with providing lubricants that do not reduce the protective effect of condoms; • Promoting correct and consistent condom use and educating about lubricants to avoid; • Behavioural interventions to reduce unprotectected anal sex, and sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

3. Promote HIV testing, knowledge and disclosure of HIV status. 

4. Improve the responsiveness of the health system to the health care needs of MSM, by educating health professionals to care for MSM and other sexual minorities in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner, revising existing clinical guidelines to include addressing the needs of MSM, outreach services, and funding organisations providing services to MSM. 

5. Implement policies and programmes to reduce the stigma of homosexual behaviour and discrimination directed at MSM. 



            PRACTICE SAFE SEX


                                                                                                                          research info by Exit.co.za

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