Fighting HIV stigma in Taipei – Promoting Partner Services
Recently CAPTC Director, Alice Gandelman, Deputy Director, Greg Mehlhaff, and Disease Intervention Services Training Center Manager, Denise Tafoya, delivered a multi-day capacity building training for CDC Taiwan and National Hospital staff aimed at reducing HIV by increasing the number of HIV+ folks who refer their partners to get tested through telling them directly, or through asking the health department to notify them.
The challenge, as is true everywhere, is engaging and building trust with men who have sex with men (MSM) to encourage them to disclose their partners’ contact information. Often men say they don’t know who their partners are, they can’t contact them, or aren’t comfortable sharing partners’ information with a public agency.
The epidemic in Taiwan is currently almost entirely among MSM. Ninety-six percent of new positive cases are MSM and 86 percent of all new positive cases indicate their risk was unprotected sex. PrEP is not widely available as resources are limited. Currently, the country has about 1,500 men on PrEP and can cover as many as 2,000 with government funding. The criteria for receiving PrEP from government programs is being an MSM younger than 20 years old or being in a sero-discordant relationship. For those not eligible, PrEP is available, but can be cost prohibitive.
Taiwan instituted same sex marriage in May 2019, yet stigma about MSM persists. Cultural and social norms, including those around having a family, are pervasive.
Grounded in a 4-Step Supporting Self Disclosure of HIV Status model, CAPTC staff worked to help them understand the broader context of Partner Service options based on activities in the United States. In addition, we worked with them to build sensitivity and capacity in terms of engaging with gay and other MSM to get more partners informed and tested.