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UN says men falling behind women in AIDS treatment

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Students hold red ribbons during an event to mark World AIDS Day at a medical college in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, China November 30, 2017 REUTERS

The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has released new research that shows fewer men than women are seeking treatment for the disease.


Published to coincide with World AIDS Day, “Blind Spot” reports men are less likely to have HIV tests and less likely to seek treatment if they are diagnosed with the virus.

Across the globe, 60 percent of women infected with HIV are currently receiving antiretroviral treatment compared with 47 percent of men.

Antiretroviral drugs both save lives and prevent transmission of HIV. This means more men are dying of the disease and they're at greater risk of spreading it.

“The proportion of men and boys taking HIV tests is less than the proportion of women taking tests,” says Dr Peter Ghys, director of strategic information and evaluation at UN AIDS.

“Less than half of all men living with HIV are receiving treatment, so most of the people who die from AIDS-related illnesses are actually men, even though there are more women living with HIV.”

The report explains that while addressing the inequalities that put women and girls at risk of HIV is at the forefront of the AIDS response, that focus leaves a blind spot for men.

In sub-Saharan Africa, men and boys living with HIV are 20% less likely than women and girls living with HIV to know their status, and 27% less likely to be accessing treatment.

In parts of South Africa, only one in four men aged 20-24 who have the HIV virus are aware they have it.

The report highlights data from sub-Saharan Africa that show condom use during sex with a non-regular partner is low among older men – 50% of men aged 40-44 and 90% of men aged 55-59 reported not using a condom.

The report also says that condom use is dropping in Australia, Europe and the United States.

Dr Ghys said several factors led men not to address these risks, and to be less likely to seek out tests and treatment for HIV.

“In many societies men are looked upon – and see themselves – as relatively invincible and less subject to disease. That’s one factor we think makes men less likely to use health services.”

Dr Ghys also said that women globally have more access to healthcare and HIV treatment.

“Women are just more in touch with health services than men.”