Calls for PrEP scale-up in Asia-Pacific
Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Asia Pacific have called on their national governments to create pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) implementation strategies for the region, to help stem the fast-growing HIV epidemic among the group.
The PrEP call was made upon the release of the PrEParing Asia meeting report (29 April) – which chronicles the outputs of the largest consultation on the role-out of PrEP in the region, and the first community-led consultation on PrEP in the world.
Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM, a member network that advocates for the right to health for men who have sex with men and transgender communities, said that the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men is “out of control” in the region. Forecasts show that by 2020, at least 50% of new infections in Asia will be among this group.
The consultation aimed to assess awareness and perceptions of PrEP among men who have sex with men and healthcare providers, as well as the feasibility of roll out. The World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends PrEP for all population groups most at risk of HIV.
The consultation found that if all stakeholders were made aware of PrEP, and if there was an effective and community-led strategy to scale-up and roll out, that there would be a lot of appetite for PrEP in the region. The WHO estimates that new HIV infections among MSM could be reduced by nearly a quarter. Studies have shown that 40% to 70% were interested and willing to use PrEP.
Dr Rachel Clare Baggaley, from WHO commented: “For PrEP to be accessible and successfully implemented in the region, the central role of communities will be key: providing information, raising awareness, creating demand, supporting delivery and adherence and working in partnership with providers to make services inclusive, acceptable and effective.”
The PrEParing Asia meeting brought together key members from gay and other groups of men who have sex with men, policy makers, programmers and service providers. It took place from 23-25 September 2015 in Thailand, with support from UNAIDS and the WHO.