amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Adopting New Technologies in the Fight Against AIDS

New HIV infection rates among gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender individuals (collectively, GMT) are increasing despite a slight decline in global infection numbers. In response to this alarming upward trend, a group of more than 40 prominent HIV activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and public health leaders from around the world recently met in Washington, D.C., to discuss how Internet, social media, and communication technology can advance the fight against HIV among GMT.

indianmobile© Komar | DreamstimeThe meeting—hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and co-sponsored by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), amfAR, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)—concluded with a call for an increased recognition that HIV among GMT requires an innovative global response using modern technologies to maximize breakthroughs in prevention and treatment.

“We must better use communication technology and social media platforms in order to confront the epidemic among gay men, other MSM, and transgender individuals in the U.S and internationally,” said Kent Klindera, director of amfAR’s GMT Initiative.

Forging new partnerships with communication technology companies and entrepreneurs in the private sector would be an important first step, as the GMT population has traditionally embraced social media. “Gay men have a history of adopting new technologies to find each other, especially when stigma and discrimination force many underground,” said Laurindo Garcia, founder of B-Change, a social enterprise with headquarters in Manila, Philippines, that has a vision of promoting social change through technology. “In this digital age, public health needs to better leverage the Internet, apps, and social media.”

Attendees at the meeting focused on lower- and middle-income countries, where PEPFAR and the Global Fund are aiming to increase their impact. In many of these countries GMT face widespread discrimination and are often neglected in national AIDS strategic plans. Through new approaches in communication technologies, the participants of the meeting hope to make prevention, testing, and treatment messages more readily available to those who need them most.