WHO: Men make a difference in changing the course of the AIDS epidemic

News release

World AIDS Day

Nearly 20 years after the first AIDS case was discovered, the World Health Organization (WHO), with UNAIDS, is focusing its campaign to control the spread of HIV on the male population in an attempt to change the course of the epidemic.

"Men make a difference" is WHO's theme for World AIDS Day of 2000. World AIDS Day, observed every 1 December, seeks to raise awareness of the need to take urgent action to control the spread of HIV and to ensure health care programmes for people with AIDS. This year's theme ushers in a two-year campaign on what men can do in the prevention of HIV and AIDS care.

"The campaign aims to involve men more fully in the effort against AIDS. It is crucial not to isolate men as the origin of the problem but to involve them in search of a solution," points out Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

There are good reasons for focusing the World AIDS Campaign on men:

  • The total number of HIV infected individuals in the Western Pacific Region* is expected to exceed 1 million by the end of 2000. Eighty percent of these will be men.
  • Men are less likely to seek health care than women and cope less effectively than women with stressful situations, such as living with AIDS.
  • Some men are more likely than women to use alcohol and other substances that lead to unsafe sex, increasing the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Male to female HIV transmission is twice as efficient as female to male.
  • HIV-positive drug users - who are mostly male - can transmit the virus to both their drug partners and sex partners.
  • Men can be good targets for HIV prevention and promotion of responsible and safer sex practice such as condom use.
  • Hostility and misconceptions about sex between men - many of whom also have sex with their wives or girlfriends - have resulted in inadequate HIV prevalence measures.

Dr Omi notes that "experiences around the world and in our Region have demonstrated that men's behaviour can change," and thus can alter the course of the epidemic. "The changes include delaying the onset of sexual intercourse and using condoms more consistently." Interventions such as the involvement of men in the 100% condom use programme in Cambodia may effectively contribute to the control of HIV in the Region. There is encouraging evidence that intensive condom promotion and STI treatment among sex workers have been major reasons for a drop in HIV prevalence among young sex workers. Behavioural surveillance is confirming increasing condom use among sex workers and their clients from 15.7% in 1996 to 78.1% in 1999. Increased condom use has reflected reductions in HIV prevalence among young (less than 20 years old) brothel-based sex workers from 37.7 in 1997 to 26% in 1999.

More information on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS can be found on the Western Pacific Regional Office site on the WorldWideWeb (http://www.wpro.who.int).

For more information, contact Mr Charles Raby, Public Information Officer at (632) 528 9983 or email: rabyc@wpro.who.int * The 37 countries and areas comprising WHO's Western Pacific Region are: American Samoa, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Macao (China), Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Federated Sates of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna

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