Is the WHO perpetuating gay HIV stereotypes?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new report in which it recommends all gay men begin taking antiretroviral drugs in a bid to tackle the spread of HIV across the globe.

Unveiling the report, head of the WHO's HIV division Gottfried Hirnschall cited research stating such a move could help to reduce the spread of the disease by as much as 20 to 25 per cent in the coming years, but is this really the best way to tackle this burning issue?

Patrick McAleenan responded in an opinion piece for the Independent that while the organisation's data makes a strong point, the announcement may be perpetuating stereotypes that HIV is a disease that affects only the gay community.

"Worryingly, this latest recommendation does nothing to dispel the myth that all gay men are promiscuous, irresponsible or ignorant and regularly play Russian roulette with their sexual health," he argued.

Mr McAleenan added the report makes no mention of men who have sex with women, despite these individuals also facing a risk of contracting the disease.

As such, he argued that while a move to introduce widespread preventative treatments for HIV among the gay community could be beneficial, a better option would be to improve overall levels of awareness and education surrounding both the disease itself and the need to use condoms across all sections of society.

Promoting safe sex and warning individuals about the dangers of HIV and other STDs could have a far greater impact on the spread of these diseases in the years ahead - especially as the younger generation now appear to be less concerned by the illness, perhaps due to the widespread availability of drugs that can help HIV sufferers to lead an increasingly normal life.

Mr McAleenan concluded that a more relaxed attitude to HIV is not simply confined to the gay community, it is a situation that is being seen across society, and therefore education should be the tool to tackle this issue, not more expensive drugs and treatments.