23 Jul 2014

HIV successes under threat from anti-gay crackdowns

The list is growing – 76 perhaps more – countries which have introduced laws which, in some form or another criminalise homosexuality.  There are even a few where homosexual sex is punishable by death.

In Uganda, President Museveni celebrated the passing of the anti-gay Bill earlier this year at a mass rally. He had sought advice on whether people were born gay. 

If that had been the case, he said, he would not have supported the Bill.  But the advice was that it was not congenital, it was behavioural.  That, he said, was disgusting.

But it is not just Uganda.  It is spreading. And this is causing grave concern because of the impact it is having on the fight against HIV/Aids.

Professor Chris Beyrer, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “Evidence shows that whenever people with HIV become outcasts, the disease spread.”

In Uganda and elsewhere there have been reports of arrests and police raids. There is strong evidence that men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and injecting drug users, in other words the people most at risk of infection, are being driven away from clinics that provide condoms for prevention and treatment.

At the International Aids Conference in Melbourne the World Health Organisation has issued an explicit warning that criminalising and stigmatising those most at risk will jeopardise the progress being made against the global epidemic.


Dr Joseph Amon, of Human Rights Watch, said they had interviewed people in Uganda and Nigeria who have been told by health workers that they will not treat them.

Dr Amon said that while the Ministry of Health claims there is no discrimination there was disruption to people’s lives.

“They are being kicked out of their homes and fired from their jobs.  That drives risky behaviour,” he said.

And it does not require a law to explicitly outlaw gay sex. In Russia the introduction of laws banning the promotion of homosexuality to under 18-year-olds has been the driver for homophobia, with an increase in gay people being beaten up and campaigning groups regularly being raided by police.

The theme of this conference in “Stepping Up the Pace” but there is very real concern now that these laws are not only going to slow down that pace but actually move that fight backward.

Follow Victoria Macdonald on Twitter: @vsmacdonald

Tweets by @vsmacdonald