UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

The head of the UNAIDS programme has said that countries with anti-gay laws have dramatically higher rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) than those countries that do not oppress LGBT people.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé made the statement at a luncheon in New York where he was later presented with the Outspoken Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

A statement by UNAIDS reported that in most of the countries in the Caribbean that don’t have repressive laws, HIV prevalence is between 1% and 8% among MSM. This contrasts sharply with a range of between 20% and 32% in countries which outlaw sex between men.

Speaking to journalists, the Mali-born Sidibé noted that in countries such as China, Kenya, and Malawi, around 33% of new HIV infections occur in MSM.

In many countries men who have sex with men experience considerable social stigma and are not reached with vital HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. According to UNAIDS, not only are men afraid of disclosing their sexual activity, they are also deterred from finding out what they need to know to reduce their risk or to buy condoms.

“It is unacceptable today to say that 85 countries still have laws which are criminalising same-sex relations among others. Even seven of them have the death sentence for homosexual practice,” Sidibé said.

He slated the “growing conservatism” in certain countries and described Uganda’s proposed anti-gay law as “very scary”.

Sidibé went on to add: “We must insist that the rights of minorities are upheld. If we don’t, the epidemic will grow again.”

UNAIDS announced that it is working to develop strategies for Latin America and the Caribbean on human rights and improvement of access to health services for MSM and other sexual minorities.

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