Wednesday, October 26, 2011

GMHC Lauds CDC Recommendations for Routine HPV Vaccination for Boys

Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) strongly supports the Advisory Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that boys should be routinely vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV).  The recommendations state that boys should be routinely vaccinated at age 11 or 12 in order to reduce the risk of genital warts and certain cancers, including anal cancer. Gardasil had previously only been approved to help prevent genital warts and certain cancers for girls and women.

Compared to the general population, gay and bisexual men are nearly 20 times more likely to get anal cancer, and men who have sex with men (MSM) who are HIV-positive are up to 40 times more likely than the general population to develop anal cancer. In light of the disproportionate risk faced by MSM, and especially HIV-positive MSM, routine HPV vaccination is a tremendously important prevention initiative that will help protect men at high-risk of HPV infections and anal cancer. Routine HPV vaccination for boys will likely lead to a reduced incidence of anal cancer over time.

“The Advisory Committee’s recommendation for routine HPV vaccination for boys will go a long way toward protecting men from certain cancers, especially gay and bisexual men and HIV-positive men” said Nathan Schaefer, Director of Public Policy at GMHC. “In recent years, GMHC has strongly advocated for the approved-use of Gardasil for boys and men to prevent anal cancer, with particular attention to HIV-positive men who have sex with men who are disproportionately affected by anal cancer.”

In December 2010, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approved Gardasil for boys and men ages 9 to 26 to help prevent against genital warts and anal cancer. The CDC’s Advisory Committee new recommendation for routine vaccination is the next step in protecting men from HPV and its associated health risks.  GMHC provided written testimony in advance of the advisory committee’s meeting, urging them to approve the vaccine for boys and men.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Rape of Men

via The Guardian by Will Storr

Sexual violence is one of the most horrific weapons of war, an instrument of terror used against women. Yet huge numbers of men are also victims. In this harrowing report, Will Storr travels to Uganda to meet traumatised survivors, and reveals how male rape is endemic in many of the world's conflicts. 

Dying of shame: a Congolese rape victim, currently resident in Uganda. This man’s wife has left him, as she was unable to accept what happened. He attempted suicide at the end of last year. Photograph: Will Storr for the Observer

Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour. It is usually denied by the perpetrator and his victim. Governments, aid agencies and human rights defenders at the UN barely acknowledge its possibility. Yet every now and then someone gathers the courage to tell of it. This is just what happened on an ordinary afternoon in the office of a kind and careful counsellor in Kampala, Uganda. For four years Eunice Owiny had been employed by Makerere University's Refugee Law Project (RLP) to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. This particular case, though, was a puzzle. A female client was having marital difficulties. "My husband can't have sex," she complained. "He feels very bad about this. I'm sure there's something he's keeping from me."

Owiny invited the husband in. For a while they got nowhere. Then Owiny asked the wife to leave. The man then murmured cryptically: "It happened to me." Owiny frowned. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old sanitary pad. "Mama Eunice," he said. "I am in pain. I have to use this."

Laying the pus-covered pad on the desk in front of him, he gave up his secret. During his escape from the civil war in neighbouring Congo, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. His captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years. And he wasn't the only one. He watched as man after man was taken and raped. The wounds of one were so grievous that he died in the cell in front of him.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

South Africa: A Timeline of HIV/AIDS Activism

Zackie Achmat, Co-Founder of TAC (second from the right) and colleagues
The struggle continues
JOHANNESBURG, 4 October 2011 (PlusNews) - In a new book, Fighting for our Lives the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an HIV/AIDS lobby group, looks back on more than a decade of activism. IRIN/PlusNews presents a timeline of 12 years of highlights as the group translated action into wider access to HIV treatment:

1998 – The TAC is launched on the steps of Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral with its first campaign - calling for the provision of the antiretroviral (ARV) Zidovudine (AZT) for pregnant, HIV-positive mothers to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). The organization's first statement also urges the government to develop a plan to provide affordable treatment for all HIV-positive South Africans;

March 1999 – After starting a petition for the introduction of PMTCT services, TAC members march on one of the country's largest hospitals, Chris Hani-Baragwaneth, in Johannesburg's largest township of Soweto. TAC protesters stage a lie-in at the hospital's gate;

June 1999 – Thabo Mbeki is elected president and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is appointed health minister, ushering in an era of “government-endorsed AIDS denialism”, according to the book. Later, a Harvard University study will estimate that Mbeki's delay in rolling out ARVs caused the death of 300,000 South Africans in the next five years;

2000 РAs the TAC imports the generic version of the antifungal medication, fluconazole, in defiance of pharmaceutical company Pfizer's patent, M̩decins Sans Fronti̬res establishes the country's first ARV treatment programme at a primary healthcare clinic in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha. (Fluconazole is often used to treat opportunistic infections such as thrush and cryptococcal meningitis);

2002 – South Africa’s Constitutional Court rules in favour of the TAC, forcing the government to provide the ARV nevirapine to pregnant, HIV-positive mothers to prevent their unborn babies from contracting the virus. Later that year, Hazel Tau lodges a complaint regarding high ARV prices with the national regulatory body, the Competition Commission. She wins this complaint a year later;

2003 – The TAC launches its civil disobedience campaign. Later that year, 21-year-old TAC member Lorna Mlofana is murdered after revealing her HIV-positive status. The man convicted of her murder served a few years in prison before being released;

2004 – Government begins the slow roll-out of ARV treatment;

2006 – The TAC wins a court case that establishes the right of prisoners to treatment. As of July 2011, about 9 percent of the country's jails have ARV clinics on site;

2008 – Government releases new PMTCT guidelines for administering more effective dual therapy instead of single ARV treatment;

Mbeki is recalled from the presidency by the ruling African National Congress and Tshabalala-Msimang is replaced. Later that year, a moratorium on ARV treatment in South Africa’s Free State province commences due to financial mismanagement. The TAC launches protests at a local hospital in the province and parliament;

November 2008
- TAC reveals it is experiencing a financial crisis that would force it to retrench 20 percent of its staff and cut back its treatment literacy programme;

2009 – Jacob Zuma, the new President, signals an end to denialism and announces improved treatment guidelines, long lobbied for by the TAC and partners;

2010 – South Africa has the biggest treatment programme in the world targeting at least one million people.

Note:  The article was originally printed in PlusNews Global on October 4, 2011.  In 2003, GMHC had the extraordinary honor of hosting a speaking program with Zackie Achmat, Co-Founder of Treatment Action Campaign, and his colleague Nonkosi Khumalo.