Gay men in Europe continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV. The dominant form of HIV transmission is between men who have sex with men (MSM), yet countries continue to report major gaps in programs targeting high-risk populations, like gay men and gay migrants. The European CDC recently held a meeting to identify four powerful ideas for reducing HIV rates among gay men worldwide.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC, basically the European CDC) convened an advisory group meeting on prevention of sexual transmission of STIs and HIV among MSM and migrants. Alex Garner, Hornet’s Senior Health Innovation Strategist, was part of the advisory meeting that took place last week in Stockholm, Sweden.
The European CDC’s meeting presented an opportunity to discuss and share experiences from clinics around Europe that have seen a reduction in new HIV diagnoses among gay men. One stand-out among them is London’s Dean Street clinic.
Here are 4 strategies noted by the European CDC to reduce HIV worldwide:
1. Quick and easy HIV/STI testing centers
The Dean Street clinic offers state-of-the-art sexual health treatment and prevention that’s tailored to gay men. HIV is falling in London and it’s due to a combination of early and regular testing, immediate treatment and use of pre-exposure prophylactics (PrEP), a medication that is highly effective at preventing HIV.
Here’s a video of the Dean Street express STI testing clinic:
Dean Street shows what can be done if sexual health is centered around the experience of gay men, but it does have its limitations. Gay men aren’t a monolithic group, and therefore a response tailored for gay men must always be adapted and adjusted.
A clinic like Dean Street can be very expensive to run. It utilizes the latest technology to automate the STI testing experience, including things like automated video tutorials inserted into bathroom mirrors to assist with STI swab collection. It’s a shining example of what actual investment in gay men’s health can look like, but it’s also a reminder that at the moment that is a rarity.
2. Solutions tailored to specific gay populations
In order to make an impact on this epidemic, organizations and health providers must make an investment in gay men. At a time when more and more countries are becoming hostile to gay men, it’s more important than ever to validate the value of their lives.
This includes seeing gay men as complete and whole human beings who are capable of pursuing a whole and fulfilling sexual identity while also determining what works best for their own health.
The unique experience of gay migrants in Europe is particularly important when formulating an effective prevention response. Denis Onyango of the Africa Advocacy Foundation joined the European CDC meeting to discuss the structural barriers migrant gay men can face around Europe and why it’s important to create strategies that recognize and embrace the distinct experience of gay migrants.
3. Greater access to PrEP and ongoing medical monitoring
PrEP is still only available in a handful of countries around Europe. While PrEP implementation around Europe continues to expand, it does so at a very slow place and often without addressing barriers to cost or access. Gay men around Europe require affordable access to daily PrEP and ongoing monitoring by health care professionals. There won’t be a change in the epidemic until this happens.
Gay men continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV across Europe, but advancements in science and technology provide great opportunities for improving their health and wellness.
4. Help from gay social apps
Gay social networking apps like Hornet are a key partner in the response to HIV and STIs. Hornet can provide gay men with accurate and useful information so they can make informed decisions about their health. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and gay apps can work in collaboration to invest in gay men’s health, and that would benefit the entire community.
Feature image by serefozdemir via iStock