Discrimination Against Same-Sex Practices Fueling HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Africa, Report Says
Discrimination against men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women and transgender people is fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, according to a report released on Thursday by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. It is estimated that MSM, WSW and transgender people make up between 3% and 10% of the population in Africa, according to Cary Alan Johnson, senior specialist for Africa at IGLHRC and author of the report (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/1). The 124-page report, titled "Off the Map," found that some African governments are denying MSM, WSW and transgender people access to HIV/AIDS services, Reuters South Africa reports (Reuters South Africa, 3/2). "Despite increasing evidence of the need for HIV-related interventions for same-sex practicing people, there are scarcely more than a handful of formal HIV prevention, testing, treatment or care programs targeting [MSM] in Africa and even fewer for same-sex practicing women," the report says, adding, "Without immediate attention ... efforts to effectively combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa may be seriously challenged." Johnson said that although some countries -- such as Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal -- have made efforts to address the issue, these same countries maintain laws that target MSM and WSW. "If anything is increasing the vulnerability of gay men in Africa with HIV, it is sodomy laws that prevent people from speaking honestly about who they are and that push people further away from HIV prevention services," Johnson said, adding that the Bush administration is contributing to the stigma of MSM in Africa because many of the organizations funded by the U.S. government are faith-based and do not support same-sex practices. "Faith-based organizations have done some wonderful work in Africa, but by definition, a lot of their religious doctrine is homophobic," Johnson said, adding, "So they can't be made to respond to the needs of gay and lesbian people in the field" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/1). The report calls on African governments to repeal laws that criminalize same-sex consensual behavior. In countries with no such laws, leaders should end the arrest, harassment and persecution of people because of their sexual orientation, the report says. The report also recommends training health care professionals to ensure they respect the rights of patients and appoint experts in same-sex HIV issues (Reuters South Africa, 3/2). In addition, it says that the U.S. and other foreign donors should encourage the creation of programs aimed at helping the population in Africa (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/1).
The report is available online.