[IRMA received permission to re-print this e-mail correspondence from Dr. Ruben F. del Prado, the UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Guyana and Suriname (left), calling on his global colleagues to address unprotected anal sex as a public health risk.]

Dear UNAIDS colleagues, members of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and The Royal Tropical Institute colleagues… fellow workers towards universal access for all,

Seizing the opportunity to reiterate my appeal to ‘call a spade a spade,’ please check this out.

More than ever before, UNAIDS and its partners must strongly advocate for establishing unprotected anal sex as high risk behaviour and a public health risk, and not as conduct that typifies ‘marginalised’ groups and ‘sexual minorities.’ This would make good public health sense, and immensely benefit HIV prevention through broader community prevention messages that might more usefully fit overall HIV prevention objectives.

By continuing to use euphemisms in the HIV arena such as ‘MSM’ and ‘gender’ we actually undermine gay and transgender rights activism by further stereotyping men who have sex with men and transgender people.

There continues to be an urgent need for activism, for instance by demanding medical and nursing training colleges and HIV counseling and prevention programmes to address sexual health related pathology and psychology of sexual minorities in their curriculums and training programmes. There is no doubt about that!

I hold and intensify my firm stand on the importance of identifying unprotected anal sex as a public health risk.

It is not without reason and common sense that extensive consultations throughout India have resulted in the key recommendation to address male-to-male sexual transmission of HIV by Mainstreaming ‘unprotected anal sex’ as a public health risk: As a key public health measure, advocate for and put emphasis on unprotected anal sex as a mode of HIV transmission in all relevant health programmes; not just those for MSM or Hijras but also for other populations.”

[Click here for the full report, organized by NACO, supported by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Resource Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS (RCSHA), June 21st – July 5th 2006]

I am an advocate and international civil servant working towards HIV prevention, treatment care and support for all, but first and foremost I am a public health professional. If we want to make an impact in our time and be seen by the next generation as successfully establishing solid HIV prevention practice, we must address unprotected anal sex head on with full force as a public health and sexual health issue of great concern. Religious, cultural and societal dogma notwithstanding, we can and we must.

Uniting the world against AIDS
Dr. Ruben F. del Prado
UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Guyana and Suriname