Breaking the silence: South African HIV policies and the needs of men who have sex with men
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Although the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) in South Africa preceded the onset of the generalised HIV epidemic by several years, current policies and programmes focus on heterosexual transmission and mother-to-child transmission. We used an adaptation of the UNAIDS Country Harmonised Alignment Tool (CHAT) to assess whether existing HIV policies and programmes in South Africa address the needs of MSM. This covered mapping of key risk factors and epidemiology of HIV among MSM; participation of MSM in the HIV response; and an enabling environment for service provision, funding and human resources. We found that current policies and programmes are unresponsive to the needs of MSM and that epidemiologic information is lacking, in spite of policy on MSM in the National Strategic Plan. We recommend that government initiate sentinel surveillance to determine HIV prevalence among MSM, social science research on the contexts of HIV transmission among MSM, and appropriate HIV prevention and care strategies. MSM should be closely involved in the design of policies and programmes. Supportive programme development should include dedicated financial and human resources, appropriate guidelines, and improved access to and coverage of HIV prevention, treatment and care services for MSM.