For the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) is strongly recommending that men who have sex with men (MSM) consider pre-exposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV infection in addition to the use of condoms. The recommendation is included in the WHO’s newly released Consolidated Guidelines on HIV Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment and Care for Key Populations.

The new guidelines are designed to outline steps for countries in the reduction of HIV infections and increased access to HIV testing, treatment, and care in 5 key populations: MSM, prisoners, IV drug users, sex workers, and transgender individuals. Also included in the recommendations are the removal of legal and social barriers that could prevent people from accessing HIV-related services.

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It is estimated that a 20–25% reduction in HIV incidence could be achieved via pre-exposure prophylaxis among MSM, leading to the prevention of up to 1 million new infections over 10 years in this population. Research also suggests that female sex workers are 14 times more likely to have HIV than other women, MSM are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population, and transgender women and IV drug users are 50 times more likely to have HIV than other adults. Approximately 13 million people worldwide on antiretroviral therapy led to a 20% drop in HIV-related deaths from 2009–2012, the WHO reports.

The recommendations also address measures to better manage sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and co-infections like tuberculosis and hepatitis, and the need for needle and syringe and opioid substitution therapy programs. Recommendations for treatment of overdose are also included.

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