Report Calls for Better Outreach to Men in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Report Calls for Better Outreach to Men in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Men are less likely than women to take an HIV test, less likely to access antiretroviral therapy, and more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses, a report from UNAIDS finds.

Released on World AIDS Day, the report, Blind Spot: Reaching Out to Men and Boys (76 pages, PDF), found that, globally, 47 percent of HIV-positive men age 15 and older were on antiretroviral therapy in 2016, compared to 60 percent of women, with the greatest gender disparity seen in western and central Africa (25 percent vs. 44 percent). Men also accounted for 58 percent of AIDS-related deaths worldwide, while in sub-Saharan Africa men represented 41 percent of people living with HIV but 53 percent of AIDS-related deaths. The report also found that outside of eastern and southern Africa, men accounted for about 60 percent of new infections among adults, and that key populations at highest risk often were deterred from accessing prevention and treatment services by lack of awareness, punitive laws and policies, police harassment, stigma, and/or discrimination within healthcare settings.

"Although it is difficult to generalize among the diversity of men across social settings, geographic areas, cultures, and income levels," the report notes, "a large body of data strongly suggest that, compared with women, male lifestyles and health behaviors" — men visit healthcare facilities less frequently, have fewer check-ups, and are diagnosed with life-threatening conditions at later stages than women — "put them at greater risk for poor health and premature death." According to the study, lower rates of service coverage among men, combined with gender inequalities, also increase the risk of HIV infection among women and girls. In eastern and southern Africa, women accounted for 57 percent of new infections among adults in 2016 and 60 percent of those living with HIV.

To boost men's utilization of HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services, the report recommends creating supportive legal and policy frameworks with a public health approach that creates environments in which more men are able to access services; investing in long-term efforts to change harmful gender norms; reforming health policies and systems to address gaps and disparities in access to services for all population groups; and facilitating access and adherence to treatment by making services available outside of clinical settings and ensuring confidentiality.

"Addressing the inequalities that put women and girls at risk of HIV is at the forefront of the AIDS response," said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. "But there is a blind spot for men — men are not using services to prevent HIV or to test for HIV and are not accessing treatment on the scale that women are."