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Men can help curb spread of HIV
   Men can play a key role in preventing HIV infection worldwide, according to a report released by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) that marked the launch of the year 2000 World AIDS Campaign.

Worldwide, men tend to have more sex partners than women do, which not only increases their own risk of HIV, but also increases the risk of infection of their primary partner, UNAIDS officials point out. The stigma that surrounds HIV infection compounds the problem, and men are often less likely to seek medical care than women.

"The time is ripe to start seeing men not as some kind of problem, but as part of the solution," Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement. "Working with men to change some of their attitudes and behaviors has enormous potential to slow down the epidemic and to improve the lives of men themselves, their families, and their partners."

The objective of the new UNAIDS campaign will be to get men to participate more fully in national responses to the HIV epidemic, according to the UNAIDS statement. The report "challenges harmful concepts of masculinity and contends that changing many commonly held attitudes and behaviors, including the way adult men look on risk and sexuality and how boys are socialized to become men, must be part of the effort to curb the AIDS epidemic."

All-male environments, such as the military, may reinforce risk taking. Similarly, prison environments increase the rate of sexual intercourse between men. Male violence -- through wars, forced migration, and domestic violence -- also increases the risk of HIV transmission.

"Too often, it is seen as 'unmanly' to worry about avoiding drug-related risks, or to bother with condoms," Piot continued. "These attitudes seriously undermine AIDS prevention efforts."

HIV prevention efforts that involve men can work, however. For instance, in parts of Africa, Central America and Asia, long-distance truckers have practiced safe sex more consistently. HIV prevention programs with army recruits have been successful in Thailand. And in the US, a trend towards delayed sexual intercourse and more consistent use of condoms has been seen in recent years.

- More articles on HIV
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