In Switzerland, MSM represent the population most affected by HIV and syphilis. Almost 50% of HIV diagnoses and 60% of syphilis diagnoses are in the MSM group. A national strategy has been in place since 2012.
Estimating the number and regional distribution of MSM in Switzerland
Together with colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, researchers of the FOPH have estimated the number and regional distribution of MSM living in Switzerland. This allows for the first time to calculate the prevalence of HIV infection among MSM in Switzerland (see download):
From HIV to gay health
In collaboration with the Swiss AIDS Association and Checkpoint sexual health centres, the FOPH has developed a national strategy, known as the Urgent Action Plan. This strategy, in place since 2012, was currently updated. The new Urgent Action was published in 2018.
A strategy with three fields of action
The Urgent Action Plan focuses on three fields of action. These are:
Field of action I
- Inform MSM of the issue of primary infection, and teach them to recognise the symptoms.
- Reduce the community viral load by breaking the chains of primary infection and lowering the risk of HIV and other STIs for MSM.
Field of action II
- Reducing the interval between infection and diagnosis to under 12 months.
Field of action III
- Preventing transmission after diagnosis.
The strategy in action on the ground
The implementation of the Urgent Action Plan is today reflected in the Break the Chains, STOP SYPHILIS, and #undetectable annual campaigns.
Break the Chains encourages MSM to avoid any risk of HIV transmission during a one-month period (in April) until they get tested for HIV in May. The objective is to reduce the risk of HIV for the gay community and MSM by detecting as many people as possible who are not (yet) aware that they have the infection.
STOP SYPHILIS offers guidance and free testing for syphilis. It is also an opportunity for MSM to ask themselves if they also need testing for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and hepatitis C.
The #undetectable campaign informs MSM that HIV-positive people who are being treated and have an undetectable viral load do not transmit the HIV virus. With this information, the campaign aims to fight stigmatisation and discrimination against MSM who are HIV-positive.
Towards better gay health in Switzerland
Risk taking and HIV/sexually transmitted infections are symptoms of a complex overall health environment, with social indicators highlighting specific vulnerabilities. External homophobia (generalised or in the form of physical/verbal assault) and internalised homo-negativity encourage, amongst their vulnerabilities, a permanent state of anxiety that reinforces, from a very young age, low self-esteem and increases the risk of suicide in young homosexuals.
The challenges of gay health go far beyond HIV/STI prevention. HIV/STI prevention is one aspect of promoting overall health in the homosexual community. Support for a wider psycho-social effort that promotes autonomy and self-determination for homosexual men and women is required.
Last modification 13.02.2019