Over 10 million men have been reached through health non-governmental organisation, Right to Care’s Me1st campaign, launched in November last year to empower men to put their health first, get tested for HIV and go onto antiretroviral treatment if they test positive.
Men who have sex with men, also referred to as MSM, face devastating stigma and discrimination in society but especially when seeking healthcare services.
As a key population disproportionally affected by HIV and sexually transmitted infections, the Me1st movement focuses on reaching as many HIV positive men as possible and then linking them to antiretroviral therapy and care.
South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world with some 7.2 million people currently living with HIV.
UNAIDS recently released a report showing that 47% of new HIV infections globally are among key populations which includes men who have sex with men.
HIV prevalence in the general population is at 19% in South Africa, however, amongst men who have sex with men, it is 27% and this figure is even higher in major metropolitan areas such as Johannesburg, where prevalence rates as high as 40% have been documented.
MSM Marketing Coordinator at Right to Care, Andrew Lethole, said: “There has been a dramatic increase in the number of MSM who have tested for HIV in both urban and hard to reach areas across South Africa. As a result of our Me1st movement, a high percentage of the men who tested HIV positive have been supported in accessing healthcare services and treatment and are now on antiretroviral treatment.”
Me1st.co.za is interactive with a confidential chatline handled by qualified counsellors 24-7, many of whom are MSM themselves. The WhatsApp line 072 637 6212 has also been highly successful in engaging men and providing accurate information.
“We are engaging with MSM in a safe and confidential environment and addressing the apathy and fear that many men experience around HIV testing. More men now know where they can get tested for HIV and how to access treatment and care,” said Lethole.
For more information and to find about Me1st activations taking place visit www.me1st.co.za or www.facebook.com/me1stSA/ or contact the Whatsapp line 072 637 6212.