With HIV prevalent among 15-17 per cent of the high-risk group of Men having Sex with Men (MSM) in Pune,scientists at the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) too have welcomed the Delhi High Court judgment legalising homosexuality. They feel that more from this group will have access to care,support and treatment now.
Nari director Dr R S Paranjape said this group,which was discriminated against,will now be able to seek treatment. Various studies at NARI have shown that the HIV prevalence is between 15-17 per cent among this group. Because of the stigma attached to their gay status,more often than not this lot prefers to remain anonymous.
Dr R R Gangakhedkar,scientist at NARI,said the transmission rate of HIV is higher in peno-anal sex rather than peno-vaginal sex. Unless a good legal ambience is provided,not many will admit their sexual status be it gay or lesbian or bisexual.
Gangakhedkar has undertaken a project with the Humsafar Trust on understanding the social and sexual networks of the MSM. Once we know the extent of their networks,interventions can be planned, he said.
The trauma to the rectum is much more in anal intercourse, says Dr Seema Sahay,scientist at NARI. Another group that is hidden is that of the housewife. At least legalising homosexuality will ensure that this high-risk group can avail itself of treatment. According to Gangakhedkar,if consenting adults are not booked under Section 377 of the IPC,they have the legal ambience and it could in turn lead to monogamous relations.
Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society coordinator in Pune Sachin Pawar,when contacted,said there were 11 Integrated Counselling and Treatment Centres (ICTCs) for providing medical tests to the high-risk groups. Pawar pointed out that only a few among the MSM reported for treatment at present.
The MSACS provides funds to Sambhavana Group for targeting at least 1,000 MSM a year,the other two NGOs Samapathik Trust and Udaan gets funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation via nodal agency Pathfinder. B M Khire of the Sampathik Trust says they receive Rs 18-20 lakh for the project and so far they have access to 1,700 MSM. We adopt the snowball approach. Like a ball that rolls and gathers snow and becomes large,we start with a single MSM and tell him about the pitfalls of unsafe sex.