In a new series of papers, “HIV in Men Who Have Sex with Men”, Lancet delves deeply into the root causes of the HIV pandemic among homosexuals, analyzing the biological, behavioral, and structural risks that affect men having sex with men.
The series was presented at a symposium during the AIDS 2012 conference last week in Washington D.C. presented by Professor Chris Beyrer from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The findings of the papers are contradictory. On the one hand the papers conclude the problem is homophobia but the evidence of the paper demonstrates the problem is behavior. In fact, active homosexuals are eighteen times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population. In addition, the papers detail how homosexual lifestyles are correlated with a host of other STDs and health risks, including substance abuse and depression.
Huge progress has been made in reducing the spread of HIV, especially in the developed world especially. But new infections of HIV occur predominantly among men having sex with men.
According to the paper, the risk of becoming infected with HIV for a man having sex with another man is 1.4%. The Lancet papers highlight the known factors that compound the problem. A major complication is the biological risk associated with anal sex, since HIV is a gut-tropic virus. A second risk is that homosexuals possess what health experts call “sexual role versatility,” that is the ability of being both the receptive and insertive partner of the virus. An additional risk is the propensity of homosexuals to lead a promiscuous lifestyle that exposes them to further risks. These three factors combine to increases the speed and efficacy with which HIV continues to spread among homosexuals.
These biological and behavioral risks are so high that even if all active homosexuals were provided the best health services available today their infection rates would only go down 25% over the next 10 yrs.
The novelty of the series of papers is highlighting non-medical, non-scientific notions such as homophobia. The health experts claim that homophobia is a key driver of the HIV pandemic among homosexuals, especially black homosexuals. But while the experts cite data showing how laws and culture can be barriers to access HIV services and information, there is no data showing that the expansion of special rights to persons on the basis of their sexual and identity preferences has had any effect on their HIV infection rate, or overall health.
The health experts nevertheless affirm that stigma and discrimination through laws, culture, “hegemonic masculinity,” and especially religious traditions, are killing young men.