A new survey of more than 5,000 participants worldwide indicates that the majority of men who have sex with men (MSM) globally find it difficult or impossible to access HIV testing, HIV counseling, free condoms and free lubricant. Released to coincide with World AIDS Day, the preliminary findings underscored the importance of universal access to HIV prevention and treatment, a central theme of this year’s World AIDS Day observance.
Initial analysis of the survey’s results indicates that fewer than half of MSM worldwide have access to even the most basic HIV prevention and services. Of all respondents, only 39 percent reported easy access to free condoms and barely one in four reported easy access to free lubricant. A full 25 percent said free lubricant was completely unavailable. Large percentages of men reported that it was difficult or impossible to access other essential services as well, including HIV testing (57 percent), HIV education materials (66 percent) and HIV treatment (70 percent).
Conducted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) in collaboration with Dr. Patrick Wilson, Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the survey was carried out online in Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Circulated through the MSMGF’s global networks and those of its partner Fridae.com, the survey closed with a total of 3,875 MSM and 1,009 MSM service providers participating – another 375 participants did not identify themselves as MSM or provider. Nearly three quarters of all study participants were from low or middle income countries.
“Since the beginning of the epidemic, it has been widely recognized that condoms, lubricant, testing and treatment, when combined with community-led behavior change and support programs, are the most reliable tools available in the fight against HIV among MSM,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Officer of the MSMGF. “More than 25 years in, it is inexcusable that MSM around the world continue to have such restricted access to these basic lifesaving resources.”