4 news briefs: Anti-gay laws undercutting AIDS efforts

In each of these four news items, the point is the same — countries’ anti-gay laws create problems for AIDS fighters. Each item was excerpted with slight modifications from UNAIDS’s Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBTI-related news:

Secrétaire Général de l'ONU, Ban Ki-moon
LGBTI rights advocate Ban_Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations

Speaking to Caribbean leaders in Barbados at a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted  challenges hindering the fight against HIV/Aids in the region, noting that the epidemic is “only made worse by laws and stigma” and that “we cannot tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or on the basis of gender identity.”

A new article published in the Lancet found that gay and bisexual men in Nigeria fear the benefits of accessing health care do not outweigh the risks of arrest and torture imposed by the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

While at the International Financing for Development conference in Ethiopia, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé observed that ending the HIV epidemic is not only about giving pills, and that “bad laws” drive vulnerable people underground: “Gay people are not reached anymore in many places because of homophobic laws.”

In Jamaica, with its anti-sodomy law, a new report found that in 2012 bisexuals accounted for 40 percent of new HIV infections.

Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson said the HIV prevalence rate in Jamaica was:

  • 1.8% among the general population.
  • 4.2% among female sex workers.
  • 24.3% among young men under 25 years who have sex with men
  • 41% among sex workers who have sex with men.
  • 45% among trans women.
  • As much as 56% among trans people in sex work.

Those prevalence rates are “way too high,” he said, so intense anti-HIV efforts must be concentrated on these vulnerable groups.

But doing so is difficult, he said, because of the ever-present challenge of  effectively dealing with the issue of stigma and discrimination.

For more information, read the full edition of Equal Eyes.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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