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HIV infection rising among MSM in India, China: UN

United Nations: The prevalence of HIV
among men who have sex with men (MSM) is rising in several
Asian countries like India and China, according to a new UN
report.

The new report, commissioned by UNDP and the Asia
Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), also said
laws criminalising gay sex in many countries in the region is
pushing infection rates of AIDS.

MSM will comprise an increasing proportion of total
new HIV infections over the next decade in Asia, it said,
adding that prevalence of deadly HIV among MSM is rising in
countries like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

According to recent estimates of MSM, India has 30.5
million such people, Bangladesh and Pakistan 3.8 million each,
Nepal (615,000) and Sri Lanka (502,000).

It says says there are a million or more hijras in
India and 12,000 in Bangladesh.

"The continued criminalisation of male-to-male sex in
the Asia-Pacific, resulting in harassment and other human
rights violations, is hurting the region`s response to HIV,"
the report said.

Of the eight South Asian countries, only Nepal has
decriminalised male-to-male sex.

"Although the Delhi High Court effectively
decriminalised male-to-male sex, the situation in India as a
whole remains uncertain pending the outcome of appeals against
the decision," the report said.

The report also said "India selectively applies other
criminal provisions, such as public order and indecency
offences, to target MSM and trans-gender people."

India is one of the four countries in Asia along with
China, Cambodia and Indonesia that have specific action plans
to combat HIV and AIDS among MSM, but implementation of
several schemes continue to suffer, it said.

The Commission on AIDS in Asia found that MSM can
potentially account for between 10 and 30 per cent of new HIV
infections in Asian countries, making HIV among MSM a
significant factor in the overall epidemic, the report said.

Projections indicated that that close to half of all
new HIV infections occurring annually in Asia as a whole will
be among MSM by 2020, unless prevention programmes are
scaled-up.

In Asian cities, HIV prevalence among samples of
trans-gender people is reported to be even higher than among
MSM. For instance, the prevalence of HIV among MSM in Delhi is
49 per cent and 42 per cent in Mumbai. The report said Over the last decade, incidents
reported from India, Nepal and Bangladesh have included
incidents of police harassment, assaults and detention of HIV
prevention workers and censorship of prevention materials.

The report documents several incidents of police
harassment in India during the past decade - including the one
in Lucknow in 2006 where police arrested four men for
allegedly running an online gay club.

Police traced the phone number of one of the accused
on the website, and met him under-cover.

He was then forced to call several of his friends, who
were arrested because of their perceived sexual orientation.
After the arrests, for a period of time the NGO
Bharosa Trust stopped holding peer education HIV prevention
workshops, the report said.

-PTI

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