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Sexual orientation influences HIV prevelance, a study says

WINDHOEK, 08 SEP (NAMPA) – A recent study has concluded that HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are relatively higher among certain population groups, based largely on their sexual orientation.
The study was carried out by M&C Saatchi, a partner organisation of the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS).
Researchers generally found that men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, transgender persons, women who have sex with women (WSW) and people who inject drugs (PWID), have significantly higher prevalence rates of the infection than those of the general population.
Detailed figures and statistics of the study are expected to be released later this year.
Psychosexual Educator from South Africa, Delene van Dyk said policies in countries should promote health equity in order to address the health needs of those who face a higher degree of disease burden.
Van Dyk said this during a three-day workshop held in the capital to address stigma and discrimination as barriers to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.
The workshop, which ended Wednesday, was also held to reinforce Namibia’s readiness to carry out advocacy work so as to reduce HIV infections and HIV-related deaths in key populations (KPs) such as among sex workers, MSM, WSW and others.
She pointed out that a lack of resources and inadequate access to healthcare services, combined with stigma and discrimination, are widely recognised as factors responsible for undermining efforts to prevent the spread of HIV for people living with HIV and other marginalised groups.
Giving an example of South Africa, Van Dyk said the neighbouring country has a few health facilities that are sensitised to the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of these key population groups.
She added that South Africa also has the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC) in place, which is not the case in many other southern African countries.
SANAC is a voluntary association of institutions established by the South African government to build consensus between the public service sector, civil society and all other stakeholders to drive an enhanced country response on HIV, Tuberculosis (TB) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
“SANAC has over 18 different sectors such as for women, men, sex worker, as well as a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) just to mention a few,” she said.
These sectors, she stressed, fought to get their concerns included in the national AIDS plan.
It is through such plans, she stated, that national health facilities will be sensitised on key populations.
Van Dyk further explained that in Pretoria, the South African government funded a clinic by attaching it to a non-governmental organisation that serves key populations such as sex workers and others.
This clinic, she indicated, has now also become a placement centre for nursing students who get sensitised on key populations.
Former Health and Social Services Minister, Dr Richard Kamwi told Nampa on Wednesday that Namibia does not have a National AIDS Council in place, but stressed that the Namibian Constitution condemns any kind of discrimination against persons in the country.
“In Namibia, you cannot discriminate against a person on the basis based on their sexuality,” he said.
The workshop was conducted by the new regional Global Fund programme - Key Populations Representation, Evidence and Advocacy for Change in Health (KP REACH).
KP REACH falls under the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS).

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