Africa: Study Links Homophobia, HIV
July 28, 2010
In countries that already have high HIV prevalence, ongoing brutal antigay attacks, vigilantism, and stigma may be fueling a surge of infections, according to a new study. The research broke ground by offering the first HIV prevalence estimates for men who have sex with men (MSM) in countries that traditionally have tracked only heterosexual HIV/AIDS.
"Kenya, Malawi, Zambia -- nations with stunningly high infection rates among the general population -- are now seeing double those rates among men who have sex with men," said Chris Beyrer, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights. Beyrer presented the World Bank-supported study at the Global Forum on MSM and HIV in Vienna ahead of the 18th International AIDS Conference.
A group of gay HIV educators was recently beaten, doused with kerosene, and nearly burned alive in Kenya, where the study found that up to 15 percent of MSM have HIV. In comparison, Kenya's general prevalence is 6 percent.
In Malawi, 21 percent of MSM have HIV, compared with 11 percent of the general population. In Zambia, one-third of MSM have HIV, while the country's general prevalence is 15 percent.
"Due to stigma, a significant number of these countries simply fail to track HIV among their MSM," said George Ayala, the Global Forum's executive officer. "Equally troubling is that such stigma can completely derail lifesaving programming that MSM desperately need: HIV-related services, prevention work, outreach, and even epidemiological studies that would help us understand the full scope of this crisis."
"If you or your friends are viciously beaten because you're a sexual minority, then HIV risk is probably not your first concern," said Ayala.
Solving the problem involves a sharpened focus on the human rights of MSM and expanded prevention and treatment efforts targeting them, Beyrer said.
"We must improve outreach, interventions, and access to care for MSM in these countries," Beyrer said. "The argument that gay and bisexual men are a trivial sideshow in the global fight against AIDS is wrong."
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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