Praise for Malawi’s new focus on HIV among LGBTI people

Gift Trapence, executive director of the Centre for the Development of People, or CEDEP (Photo courtesy of Abcnyheter.no
Gift Trapence, executive director of the Centre for the Development of People, or CEDEP (Photo courtesy of Abcnyheter.no

Malawi plans to intensify its fight against AIDS in the country’s LGBTI community, winning praise from LGBTI activists for its efforts.

The southeast African country  is seeking more than US $388,000 from the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV and AIDS for the program, which will provide testing, counseling, treatment, condoms, and advice on how to prevent risky behavior among Malawi’s LGBTI population, estimated to number more than 38,000 people. The intended beneficiaries are primarily men who have sex with men.

“We are commending the Government action to include [gays] in the Global fund proposal for funding,” said Gift Trapence, executive director of the LGBTI-friendly Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP), in an article  in the Nyasa Times.

However, Trapence said, more needs to be done.

“It is now a high time to stop being … double faced. Some Government Ministers have been very homophobic by trying to demonise and ostricise sexual minorities while on the other hand the same Government is endorsing HIV policies and proposals to the [Global Fund], seeking funding that also include sexual minorities programmes,” he said.

He called for the repeal of Malawi’s law against same-sex intimacy, which is currently not being enforced while the High Court reviews whether it is constitutional.

“Malawi has progressive policies and on the other hand there are laws that acts as barriers in accessing services for sexual minoritities,” Trapence said.

“It is government responsibility in making sure that all Malawians are able to enjoy the right to health [including gays]. That can only be achieved if all Malawians are able to receive non-discriminatory services regardless of race, religious background, region, age, gender, sexual orientation and other status. Hence the need to have laws that protect all people equally regardless of sexual orientation,” he said.

As the Nyasa Times article noted:

In 2009 a gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were arrested and convicted 14 years for publicly wedding.

But former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them following an outcry from the international community.

Currently, the High Court reviewing the case of three men who were convicted in 2011 and are serving sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years for practicing homosexuality.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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