The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning that HIV infections among gay men is 'exploding' at an alarming rate.
"We are seeing exploding epidemics," warned Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads WHO's HIV department.
Hirnschall warns that infection rates are rising again among men who have sex with men -- the group that was at the epicentre of the AIDS pandemic when it first emerged in the 1980s.
In its new recommendations for combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the UN health agency therefore for the first time "strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection".
US authorities made the same recommendation in May.
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert "up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years".
The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
- Putting overall progress at risk -
At the same time, they are often the very groups who have least access to healthcare services, with criminalisation and stigma often dissuading them from seeking help even when it is available.
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