Vice President Joyce Banda

Malawi’s Vice President has asked religious leaders in the African country to be more tolerant of homosexuality and ‘men who have sex with men’ (MSM) to help prevent the spread of HIV.

According to a report by Afrique en ligne, Joyce Banda made the call at a meeting hosted by the Inter-Faith AIDS Association (MIAA) held in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

“I am of the opinion that MIAA is strategically positioned to bring faith leaders together to debate on how faith response to HIV and AIDS should reposition itself to tackle the issue of homosexuality without necessarily compromising [the] moral integrity of faith institutions,” she was quoted as saying.

She further said that the religious leaders must “pay attention” to these “challenging issues in the national response to HIV and AIDS”.

Homosexuality has been widely condemned in the conservative country by religious and political leaders.

In December last year two men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, were arrested after they held a public marriage ceremony.

They were found guilty of “having carnal knowledge of Tiwonge through the anus, which is against the order of nature” and Chimbalanga guilty of “permitting buggery” and were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour.

The couple were grudgingly pardoned and released by President Bingu wa Mutharika in May following intervention by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

It is believed that at least 12 percent of Malawi’s 13.1 million people are HIV positive.

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