Business Day (Johannesburg)

27 February 2009

South Africa: Neglected Group Has HIV/Aids Support

Cape Town — The relative neglect of the homosexual community in the roll-out of HIV/AIDS treatment and counselling has been addressed by the launch yesterday of a new organisation, Health4Men.

The Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) at Soweto's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital initiated the programme to address the needs of under-served populations, including men who have sex with men .

The programme chose to target men who have sex with men rather than the gay community, the unit's executive director Prof James McIntyre said, because there were many men who had sex with men and women and did not define themselves as gay. The entire spectrum would form part of Health4Men's target group.

Health4Men operates a clinic in Cape Town and will be opening another larger one at Woodstock Hospital in partnership with the Western Cape health department to provide services such as free HIV tests, CD4 counts, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and psychosocial services.

"Men, and in particular men who have sex with men, have been neglected in most of the South African programmes in the past that have focused on the dominant heterosexual and female HIV epidemic," McIntyre said.

"PHRU has been working in this field since 2003 and results from a recent survey conducted in Soweto in collaboration with the University of San Francisco found that about 21% of men who have sex with men were HIV-positive. About 44% said they had also had sex with women and 41% reported unprotected anal intercourse among their last five partners."

HIV physician Kevin Rebe will head Health4Men.

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