|WHO urges gay men to use preventive drugs
The World Health Organization on Friday urged all men who have gay sex to take antiretroviral drugs, warning that HIV infections are rising among homosexual men in many parts of the world.
"We are seeing exploding epidemics,'' warned Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads WHO's HIV department.
Infection rates are rising again among men who have sex with men -- the group at the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic when it first emerged 33 years ago, he told reporters in Geneva.
While images of skeletal men dying of AIDS in the 1980s pushed the world to act, a younger generation that has grown up among new treatments that make it possible to live with HIV are less focused on the disease, he suggested.
Today, this group is 19 times more likely than the general population to be infected by HIV, Hirnschall said.
In Bangkok for instance, the incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men stands at 5.7 percent, compared to less than 1.0 percent for the overall population, he said.
In its new recommendations for combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the UN health agency for the first time "strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection''.
US authorities made the same recommendation in May.
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance, as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, adding that that this could avert "up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years''.
The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, saying men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide. --AFP