Taboo Against MSM in Senegal Threatening Country’s Low HIV Prevalence, Experts Say
A "deeply ingrained taboo" against men who have sex with men in Senegal is preventing many HIV-positive MSM from seeking treatment and putting the group at "high risk" of HIV infection, the AP/Advocate reports. MSM can be tried in Senegal for committing "an act against nature," which is punishable by up to two years in prison and "heavy" fines, according to the AP/Advocate. Although Senegal's HIV prevalence is low -- less than 1% of the population is estimated to be HIV-positive -- HIV/AIDS experts worry that the rate could be higher among Senegalese MSM, who they say are "driven so deeply into the closet" that they are being "overlooked" in HIV prevention efforts, according to the AP/Advocate. Many MSM are forced to live "secret lives" and marry women to hide their relationships with other men, which could put their female partners at risk of HIV infection, according to the AP/Advocate. "The majority of men having sex with men are married, they live their sexuality in a different sort of way," El Hadji Diouf of Family Health International said. MSM in the country also have no civic organizations and are subject to police harassment, and many physicians refuse to treat MSM for religious and legal reasons, the AP/Advocate reports. "It's violence, being afraid to go to the hospital because you know that if you go, the doctor will know that you are a homosexual, and he will reject you," Dr. Abdoulaye Wade of the AIDS division of Senegal's Ministry of Health said (Vinograd, AP/Advocate, 2/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.