Wed | Jan 16, 2019

HIV policy must be based on science

Published:Tuesday | December 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM


It was disappointing, but not unexpected, to hear the usual familiar but unsubstantiated rhetoric about the buggery law being responsible for the difficulty in implementing policies for "reporting, treatment and prevention programmes for men who have sex with men (MSM)". This is from a "concept paper" produced for the health ministry, as reported in The Gleaner on December 1, 2014.

What is a "concept paper"? How does it differ from a scientific, evidence-based paper?

There is no need for the ministry to resort to concepts, imagination, wishful thinking or conjecture in this matter.

In 2012, noted researchers in the Lancet reported that role reversal and anal-receptive intercourse were responsible for 98 per cent of the difference in HIV rates between MSM and heterosexuals.

Additionally, in 2011, the CDC, in the journal Aids Behaviour, reported: "The sexual health of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States is not getting better despite considerable social, political and human rights advances." In fact, HIV epidemics have been increasing in MSM for more than two decades.

This led to the warning that "the disproportionate and worsening burden of HIV and other STIs among MSM require an urgent reassessment of what we have been doing as a nation to reduce these infections, how we have been doing it, and the scale of our efforts".

The reading public can easily see how utterly illogical it would be for a law against any activity to be blamed for the predictable harmful effects of said activity. Blaming the buggery law for HIV rates among MSM is like blaming the Road Traffic Act for the injuries and deaths associated with dangerous driving.

The Ministry of Health needs to leave ideology and implement policies based on evidence and well-established rules for disease prevention. Otherwise, one would be tempted to wonder whether it is serious about reducing HIV in high-risk groups.


Mona, St Andrew