HIV in Greater Manchester – Men who have sex with men
Published: 02 December 2015 Tags: LGBT, PrEP, HIV, diagnosis By John Walding
Figures from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University have revealed that there were 531 new cases of HIV reported in Greater Manchester in 2014, an increase of 13% on 2013. It is believed that many people don’t know their status, so these figures indicate that more people are getting tested but also more awareness and support is needed amongst gay,bisexual and other MSM across Greater Manchester.
Nearly 5,000 HIV positive people in Greater Manchester accessed treatment and care in the last year, an increase of 5%.
The number of new diagnoses in men who have sex with men (MSM) continues to rise with 57% of all new cases.
The past decade has also seen an increase in new diagnoses among younger MSM (15-24 years) This increase may be explained by an increase in HIV testing and ongoing high rates of transmission.
While there is a need for all men who have sex with men to continue to have easy access to condoms and lube when they need them ,there also needs to be other ways for men to help protect themselves and their partners against HIV transmission. Similarly it is crucial that men find it easy to take advantage of other additional ways in which they can get tested quickly and efficiently to know their HIV status, thus avoid further transmitting the virus on to other men and also ensuring early access to treatment if needed.
Why the increase in HIV?
The 1980s initially saw substantial reductions in risky behaviours amongst MSM in response to HIV/AIDS but by the end of the 1990s evidence suggested that high risk sexual behaviour was increasing among the MSM population.
Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found that MSM reported larger numbers of sexual partners and were significantly more likely to report measures of poor sexual and mental health including: treatment for depression, health conditions which had a perceived effect on their sexual activity, STI diagnoses and higher levels of recreational drug use.
Nationally,there are increasing concerns about the impact of recreational drug use on the transmission of HIV.There is growing evidence that sexualised drug use, or Chemsex, among MSM is significantly associated with higher sexual risk taking behaviours The recent Chemsex Study published by Sigma research found that a quarter of HIV positive MSM surveyed had chosen to engage in unprotected anal sex with men they believed to be sero - discordant (one in which one partner is infected by HIV and the other is not.)
Condoms & Testing
LGBT Foundation have been promoting free safer sex packs to gay, bi and other MSM for over 20 years to help bring down rates of new infections. Over half a million condoms are distributed every year across Greater Manchester. The charity also has a regular weekly community HIV testing service available to MSM.
In 2011 RUClear began providing home sampling for residents of Greater Manchester. Since then 5,201 HIV tests have been undertaken. In 2013, this service was developed further to target men who have sex with men (MSM) in conjunction with LGBT Foundation and Manchester Centre for Sexual Health.
LGBT Foundation are now working in partnership with BHA for Equality ,Salford City Council, Manchester City Council, our local Public Health England team, Greater Manchester Commissioners and Bridgewater Community Healthcare Trust to launch a community based Point of Care Testing service in the New Year.
As well as ongoing condom and testing schemes LGBT Foundation are working with partners to highlight the need for PrEP ( the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected) to be made available immediately to those at the highest risk of acquiring HIV in our communities. Information on how PrEP effectively prevents HIV can be found. Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd has called for PreP ,a drug which prevents HIV infections to be made available on the NHS.
Clinical trials in the UK have shown PrEP’s effectiveness, but it isn’t currently available on the NHS. You can show you’re support for earlier access to PrEP by signing the pledge here: www.prepaccess.org.uk