Anti-Gay Discrimination Fueling HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Africa: Report

African governments, the United States, and the European Union must break their silence about anti-gay discrimination in Africa or take responsibility for HIV's spread on the continent, according to a report issued Thursday by the US-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Right Commission (IGLHRC).

"Despite increasing evidence of the need for HIV-related interventions for same-sex practicing people, there are scarcely more than a handful of formal HIV prevention, testing, treatment, or care programs targeting men who have sex with men in Africa and even fewer for same-sex practicing women," said the report.

Senegal, Nigeria, and Kenya have moved to fight their epidemics but still have laws that target gays and lesbians, said Cary Alan Johnson, senior specialist for Africa at IGLHRC. "If anything is increasing the vulnerability of gay men in Africa with HIV, it is sodomy laws that prevent people from speaking honestly about who they are and that push people further away from HIV prevention services."

Johnson criticized some U.S.-funded faith-based prevention groups in Africa as blatantly homophobic. The commission's report lists incidents in which gays have been denied treatment or ridiculed because of their sexual orientation.

IGLHRC recommends that African nations repeal discriminatory laws and train medical professionals so gays and lesbians can receive equal treatment when seeking care. The report asks the United States and other donor nations to help create programs that can assist gays and lesbians.