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This is the largest such study undertaken anywhere in the world and the first of its kind in Asia.Its prevention effort will involve MSM community based organizations (CBOs) and civil society at all levels.China announced in 2008 plans for an extensive programme to tackle sharply rising rates of HIV amongst men who have sex with men (MSM), in the latest sign that the country may be starting to face up to a crisis which long seemed taboo.Announcing the MSM campaign, the ministry of health said that risky sexual behaviour was the biggest single factor behind the spread of HIV in mainland China, excluding Hong Kong, and that men who had sex with men were now the group most likely to become infected with the virus.The conference was truly tripartite, bringing together governments, donors and 380 members of community groups.As important as the event itself was the run-up, with 16 countries holding UNAIDS-sponsored preparatory meetings.
UNAIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, sees the empowering of MSM and other marginalized groups to protect themselves from HIV as one of the main elements of the global AIDS response.
In some cases, including that of China, it was virtually the first time that government officials and representatives from the wider MSM community groups met to assess the situation and discuss solutions.
One of the other lasting achievements of that conference was the decision to launch APCOM, which brings together civil society groups, government sector representatives, donors, technical experts and the United Nations to push for an effective response to the rising HIV incidence amongst MSM.
Social taboos and discrimination mean that many opt to disguise their sexual preferences; for many others, their sexual practices with other men may only be a small part of social roles they play or their sexual lives.
Given that many men who have sex with men also have sex with women, high HIV rates among MSM can also translate into substantial numbers of women at risk of exposure to HIV.