African taboos surrounding gays hamper access to HIV/AIDS programs AFP
Posted on December 6, 2008
Filed Under Uncategorized
n a continent where 38 out of 53 countries have criminalised consensual gay sex, African gays and lesbians have trouble getting access to HIV/AIDS programs, activists warned.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists took centre stage Thursday at the 15th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), the first ICASA to give such attention to the specific problems of sexual minorities.
“Homophobia fuels the spread of AIDS. In Africa main stream HIV/AIDS and human rights organisations do not want to address the issue mainly because homosexuality is still illegal in most countries,” Joel Nana, program associate Southern and West Africa for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), said.
In fact just identifying people as gay or lesbian is very sensitive in Africa and NGO’s at ICASA prefer to speak of men who have sex with men (MSM) or women who have sex with women (WSW) to avoid stigmatisation.
“In Africa there are many men here who have sex with men but are married and do not identify as gay,” Boris Dittrich, the Human Rights Watch advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender program told AFP.
“There is research that shows that vulnerable groups like men who have sex with men, sex workers and intravenous drug users are not being reached because their behaviour is criminalized,” he said.
Nana cited research that showed that in Africa men who have sex with men are nine times more vulnerable to contracting HIV that the general population.
Still the associations all stress that just their being here at the conference is a sign that there is progress, albeit slow.
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