People with same-sex preferences are still a largely ignored and underserved community in the design and execution of HIV-prevention programmes throughout much of Africa, gay rights activists charged recently.
In its report, Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), reveals for the first time to what extent African governments and funding communities have been denying basic human rights to this community as a result of “one-sided” global AIDS policies.
“Take the US government’s anti-AIDS strategies in Africa for example,” Musa Ngubane of Behind the Mask, a gay rights group in South Africa, told PlusNews. “It fails to address the impact of AIDS on homosexual people, especially those living under discriminatory rule in countries like Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Kenya.”
Multiple testimonies in the report illustrate how homophobia limits the access of African gays to existing treatment programmes.
K.S., 23, a gay man in Mombasa, Kenya, reported that he was chased out of a public health clinic when he asked to be examined for a sexually transmitted rectal infection.
Although 66 percent of all new global HIV infections occurred in Africa, 35 percent of these were excluded because countries ignored and criminalised same-sex practicing behaviour, with the exception of South Africa, the report alleged.
“Bereft of the privileges of employment, education, adequate shelter and medical care, many young gay and lesbian Africans are defenceless against HIV/AIDS,” said author Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Senior Programmes Specialist for Africa and author of the report.
The report not only documents shocking examples of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people being denied access to effective HIV prevention, based on their sexual orientation, but also underlined the impact of lack of housing on same-sex practicing people in Africa.
“If someone is denied this [housing], they end up having unsafe sex because they will be having it in odd places,” Johnson commented at the launch of the report.
Homosexuality continues to be penalised or discriminated against in the laws of many countries around the world. One aim of organisations seeking to defend the rights of gays and lesbians is to reform these discriminatory laws, and to get legislation passed that expressly protects the freedom of sexual orientation and identity.
The IGLHRC urged the US government and other major international donors, international AIDS service organisations, private volunteer groups, and national and local African authorities to take specific actions to improve the access of LGBT in Africa to HIV prevention, treatment and care services.
“The ravages of AIDS fall hardest on those most marginalised in our societies: women, the poor, LGBTs,” the report stressed. “We must insist that access to HIV prevention, treatment and care do not follow discrimination’s path.”