Dr Sherriff said: “The HIV epidemic continues to represent a critical public health issue. There were 136,235 new HIV diagnoses reported in Europe 2013, a rate of 15.7 per 100,000 population, and the highest proportion of all HIV diagnoses was reported in MSM.
“Effective interventions to monitor and control HIV epidemics among this group remain a priority.”
These would include promoting increased uptake of HIV testing, promoting correct and consistent use of condoms and promoting more information on prevention and harm-reduction strategies.
Reducing stigma and discrimination was also important and the research suggested Brighton was more enlightened in this regard than other cities: more than half the men surveyed were ‘out’, a higher number than most cities, and the respondents in Brighton reported the lowest negative attitudes towards gays and bisexuals.
The report said: “Providing specific training to the health care staff (counsellors, medical doctors, nurses) could improve a gay-friendly and sympathetic attitude among the personnel, which may facilitate health seeking behaviours in MSM communities. This latter point of needing to tackle homophobia (and stigma) should not be underestimated and is essential for improving policy and prevention initiatives at local and European level.”
Campaigns could raise awareness about HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and could reduce barriers to testing and condom use, especially among people who do not perceive themselves to be at risk.
The quite high numbers of people unaware of their HIV status in specific cities highlighted the need for more studies to better monitor the epidemic and underlined the “urgent need” for more effective prevention measures, the report said.
- Promoting community-based voluntary HIV and STI testing and counselling, in order to reduce barriers and increase access to testing
- Prioritise the need to address stigma particularly faced by HIV positive MSM
- Conduct nationwide surveys to gauge the number of undiagnosed and newly diagnosed MSM
- Collaborate with gay and gay-friendly venues to promote health initiatives and distribute condoms
- Collaborate with mobile ‘app’ owners with the aim of reaching out to the community with testing reminders
- Prioritise additional research to link funding sources to maximise the impact of initiatives.