Report says homophobia helps spread of AIDS in Africa

PinkNews Staff Writer March 2, 2007
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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today published a new study which for the first time reveals how African governments and the global HIV/AIDS policy and funding community is denying basic human rights to same-sex practicing people in Africa.

The report, entitled Off The Map, documents some shocking examples of how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are denied access to effective HIV prevention, counselling and testing, treatment, and care.

Off The Mapis the result of a year-long research project conducted through interviews with leaders of African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organisations, international aid officials, HIV/AIDS project managers, and health care providers.

“Africa, a continent with slightly more than ten percent of the world’s population, is home to 60 percent, or more than 25 million people, of those living with HIV,” says the report.

“HIV is having a decidedly harsh effect on people practising same-sex.

“Nearly a quarter of a century into the epidemic, there is a wall of silence that surrounds AIDS and same-sex practices that may prove to be a significant obstacle to conquering the disease.”

Multiple testimonies in the report demonstrate how homophobia limits the access of African gays to HIV/AIDS programs.

K.S., a 23-year-old gay man in Mombasa, Kenya reported that he was chased out of a public health clinic when he asked to be examined for an anal STI.

Romeo Tshuma, a Zimbabwean human rights activist, remembers accompanying a gay friend to a health care center in Harare to seek treatment for HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), where, “the nurses were not helpful…. They embarrassed him, after that he wouldn’t go to a hospital because of the embarrassment. He died in part, I think, because he had no place to go.”

Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC’s Senior Specialist for Africa and the author of the reports believes that the widespread denial of homosexuality in Africa contributes to human rights violations against African LGBT and increases the HIV vulnerabilities of gay people.

“Homophobic stigma, the denial of homosexuality, and legislation that criminalises same-sex behaviour, all serve to push the issue of same-sex HIV transmission further underground, and drastically limit HIV services.”

IGLHRC plans to use the findings of this report to push for a more comprehensive and equitable solution for the HIV crisis in Africa.

Off The Map,offers specific solutions to address the roots of failure of HIV policies in Africa,” said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC.

“In the next few months, we will work with our domestic and international partners to educate policy makers on the devastating impact of their HIV programs on the LGBT population in Africa. We hope that they will take steps to correct the injustice against African LGBT people affected by HIV.”

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