Monday, March 15, 2010
AIDS risk for Malawi’s gays
Research conducted in many parts of the world reveal that HIV prevalence among Men having sex with Men (MSM) regardless of the nature of the Aids epidemic is up to ten times higher than that of the general population.
In Malawi, a study done in 2008 showed 56 percent of MSMs are bi-sexual either married or having sex with girlfriends.
However, out of an estimated 10,000 MSMs in the country, many reportedly hide fearing being arrested since sodomy is still a crime and not culturally accepted by many Malawians.
Others also globally known as sexual minorities are lesbians, gays or homosexuals, transgender and intersex people.
According to a statement dated March 3 from the Unaids Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights, “the vulnerability of homosexuals is compounded by the fact that their health needs are overlooked or ignored in national Aids programmes largely because of prejudices and discriminatory legislation criminalising them.”
The Reference group which advises the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on all matters relating to HIV and human rights is independent and does not reflect the views of Unaids.
The group has since appealed to Unaids to intensify its engagement with governments and civil society to “remove sexual orientation laws and end harassment, arrest and prosecution of members of sexual minorities” especially in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.
They also believe that laws criminalizing sexual acts between consenting adults are violations of the rights to privacy, liberty and non-discrimination and that forensic medical examinations conducted on individuals as part of prosecutions under sodomy laws to prove homosexual conducts also violate privacy rights.
The Reference group recommends that Unaids action include ensuring safety and “safe havens” for sexual minorities and producing and using data and other strategic information that illustrates how HIV is affecting MSMs.
Others are law reform processes and supporting civil society organisations to gain access to prisons and police stations where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are detained and “join their advocacy for their safety and the dropping of all charges based on or motivated by sexual orientation.”
In reaction, Gift Trapence, Executive Director for Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) observed that the criminalization of same sex relationships is driving MSMs underground and making it difficult to reach them with HIV/Aids related information.
“That’s one of the barriers for access to health for the MSM community in Africa and any other country. I think the only way to fight HIV/Aids is to have a holistic approach rather than having those single interventions targeting specific groups,” said Trapence.
Meanwhile the arrest of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga popularly known as Aunt Tiwo after a same-sex engagement is still making international headlines with Amnesty International recently calling for their release.
The Malawian gay couple whom OutRage!’s Peter Tatchell has described as prisoners of conscience have reportedly requested assistance from lobby groups.
Tatchell sends money to buy them food and clothes through Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi‘s Executive Director, George Thindwa who visits them at least twice a month.
Tracing footsteps to lead me home
Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.
I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.
Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.
I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star.
.....watch this space.