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June 9, 2008

AIDS: Not a Heterosexual Disease?

AIDS should not be considered a global concern for heterosexuals outside sub-Saharan Africa, asserts the HIV/AIDS director for the World Health Organization (WHO), Kevin De Cock, according to London’s The Independent newspaper (, 6/8). De Cock made the declaration despite a discouraging report that his own organization—along with UNAIDS and UNICEF—issued less than a week ago showing that while 3 million HIV-positive people worldwide were getting lifesaving antiretroviral treatment in 2007, 2.5 million others became infected.

“It is very unlikely there will be a heterosexual [HIV] epidemic in other countries,” De Cock told The Independent. “Ten years ago a lot of people were saying there would be a generalized epidemic in Asia—China was the big worry with its huge population. That doesn’t look likely. But we have to be careful.”

De Cock acknowledges that AIDS should remain at the forefront of public health concerns, along with other chronic diseases like malaria. He suggested that more prevention efforts should be focused on men who have sex with men (MSM).

“In the developing world, [prevention for MSMs] has been neglected,” he says. “It is astonishing how badly we have done with men who have sex with men. It is something that is going to have to be discussed much more rigorously.”

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