Increasing awareness of HIV combination prevention and access to HIV prevention drug PrEP for people in Asia and the Pacific is the aim of a new digital resource called PrEP MAP which was launched yesterday at the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam.
Produced by Asia Pacific HIV and rights community network APCOM and supported by a grant from Positive Action for MSM & Transgender People, the resource is a comprehensive guide to PrEP in Asia and the Pacific and features a new website which houses the latest information about PrEP, how to access it in Asia and the Pacific and how community members across the region can help advocate for improved access to the drug.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is the use of HIV anti-retroviral drugs to prevent HIV negative people becoming HIV positive. Despite its potential to significantly reduce HIV transmission rates, it’s only available in a few countries in Asia and the Pacific, and HIV advocates are keen to fast track the introduction of the drug across the region, especially for people at high risk of HIV such as men who have sex with men (MSM).
APCOM Executive Director and World Health Organisation Global PrEP Coalition Committee member Midnight Poonkasetwattana said: “If we’re going to meet the UNAIDS goal of ending HIV by 2030, then PrEP access needs to be scaled up significantly among MSM in Asia and the Pacific.
“HIV infection rates among MSM are significantly higher than among the general population in many Asian countries. In cities such as Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon, 20% - 25% of MSM are living with HIV. in Bangkok almost one in three MSM is HIV-positive. On top of this, consistent condom use remains low with less than half of MSM in most major Asian cities using condoms inconsistently, a rate that is far too low to have an impact on reducing HIV transmission among MSM.”
“PrEP is the circuit breaker we need. However, awareness of PrEP is low among community members and policymakers across the region and this is hampering efforts to get it on the public health agenda in many countries as another option for prevention. In addition, for those people who know about PrEP and want to use it, getting up-to-date and independent information about accessing the drug in the Asia Pacific region can often be problematic.
“PrEP MAP is designed to help address both these issues by providing a basic guide to understanding, accessing and advocating for PrEP in Asia and the Pacific. We’re also producing a range of interactive articles to generate awareness of PrEP among community members and to better understand how PrEP is being used by gay men in Asia and the Pacific. APCOM is proud to be delivering this important resource for our community in the region as well as the HIV sector globally, and we thank Positive Action for MSM & Transgender People for supporting the development and production of PrEP MAP.”
Chan Wang Tu, an HIV activist from Beijing said: “As a gay man, I use PrEP to protect myself against HIV. Not many gay men want to use condoms in China and PrEP is not readily available in Beijing, so I travel to Bangkok to get my PrEP. In Beijing, I know dozens of others who travel to Thailand to buy PrEP. PrEP is a more expensive way of preventing HIV than other methods, but for me it’s a worthwhile choice, as it provides me with an additional sense of security and feeling of independence".
APCOM is committed to increasing access to PrEP for people across Asia and the Pacific and has delivered a range of related education and advocacy initiatives including:
- PrEParing Asia, Asia’s first ever regional consultation on PrEP (2015)
- PrEParing Asia 1-Year After follow-up report (2016)
- Promotion of PrEP through APCOM’s testBKK and testXXX HIV education campaigns
- Involvement with a CDC Foundation PrEP research project in Thailand targeting young male and transgender sex workers
- Training on PrEP-related issues for community organisations in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia
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