The World Health Organisation (WHO) is recommending that all gay men who are sexually active should take antiretroviral drugs in a bid to reduce the spread of HIV.
The organisation stated that this would aid in the prevention of one million new HIV infections in the next ten-year period.
Officials have issued warnings that the rates of HIV in this particular group remain at a high level globally.
However, activists suggest that this move could discourage the use of condoms which is one of the most effective methods of stopping the spread of the virus.
The WHO report indicates that males who have sex with males are 19 times more at risk of contracting HIV than the general population.
Health experts claim that offering drugs to all men who are at risk, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, will offer an extra method for the prevention of the infection, along with usage of condoms.
Studies have shown that the risk of contracting HIV can be reduced by up to 92% if it is taken consistently by those who are in the high-risk group.
The Terrence Higgins Trust’s Dr Rosemary Gillespie said that it is already known that when someone has HIV, the treatment reduces the chances of it being passed on, as does the use of condoms. She stated that the idea of treatment as prevention may not be new, but the idea of offering this to HIV-negative persons who fall into high-risk groups is.
She added that pre-exposure prophylaxis is a very exciting approach and could be one of the methods used to reduce the spread of the disease in the future, however, evaluation needs to be undertaken to determine its effectiveness in preventing HIV among homosexual males.
Dr Gillespie stated that until the final results of the UK trials are revealed, regular testing and condoms are the best weapons against HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
Although the number of deaths from Aids has declined sharply, the WHO says there are key populations who should receive more attention.
The report stated that transgender females have a HIV risk level of almost 50 times more than other adults, which is similar to that which is observed among persons who inject drugs.
Sex workers are 14 times more at risk of having HIV than the general population.
The World Health Organisation’s Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, said that failure to offers services to those who are at more risk of HIV hinders further progress of this worldwide epidemic and poses a threat to the health of individuals, their families and the general population.
Image Credit: Guillaume Paumier