US warns Namibia’s new anti-LGBTQ+ bills could impact HIV response


Ambassador John Nkengasong says that everyone in Namibia should have access to healthcare without fear of discrimination.

American Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador John Nkengasong, has addressed the new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently passed in Namibia.

Nkengasong oversees the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is expected to provide US$88 million in funding in 2023 to support Namibia’s HIV/TB response.

During a press briefing this week, Nkengasong expressed concern about two recently passed bills aimed at banning same-sex marriage in Namibia and how the growing anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the country could impact the fight against HIV.

“We should see this in the context of rights and dignity of the person. The right to access quality healthcare regardless of who you are,” he said. “Everyone within the boundaries of Namibia should have access to healthcare without fear of discrimination, segregation, or being criminalised.”

Nkengasong continued: “That is what we at PEPFAR are making a case for. You will not win the war against HIV-AIDS and bring it to an end as a public health threat if you continue to segregate a whole segment of your population and discriminate against a segment and stigmatise the population.”

“It is the same approach we’ve had in the dialogue in Uganda. We have not yet engaged in that conversation with Namibia, but we really hope that what we have been saying together with UNAIDS and other partners will resonate with the government of Namibia.”

Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Kalumbi Shangula, has insisted that the new laws will not impact the equitable provision of health services in the country.

The anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on 16 May that the state must recognise same-sex marriages registered in other countries where they are legal. The ruling sparked a wave of homophobic vitriol and protests from anti-LGBTQ+ religious leaders and politicians.

The new legislation defines marriage as only permissible “between persons of the opposite sex.” Those promoting, conducting or participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies could face fines and up to six years in jail under the proposed legislation.

The bills will have to be signed by President Hage Geingob before they become law.

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