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Africa: Bloggers Discuss HIV/AIDS among gay African men

Conversations for a Better World This post is part of a series developed by Global Voices for the UNFPA blog Conversations for a Better World · All Posts

Sub-Saharan has reported high rates of HIV among gay men in Africa. BBC reports that this state of affair has got a lot to do with the alienation and lack of sex education among homosexuals in Africa. In the search for freedom of sexual expression, it is clear that gay activism has not yet reached the national level and prevention campaign for men who have sex with men (MSM) has not been fully acknowledged. These factors put many homosexuals and heterosexuals at risks especially men who have unprotected sex with both gender and have multiple sex partners. MSM are hard to be reached due to stigma and yet they still remain in precarious position where HIV is concerned. Let's listen to views of LGBT African bloggers writing about the issue.

Discussing anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda Simon Collery argues that criminalization of same sex relationships will make it harder to protect male gay from HIV transmission:

When it comes to preventing HIV transmission, criminalization of same sex relationships will make it more difficult to protect men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are very vulnerable to being infected with HIV and are more likely to transmit it than those engaging solely in heterosexual relationships.

But this means that it must be made possible for MSM to be open about their sexual practices. If they are not open about their sexual practices it will not be possible to target this group with appropriate HIV reduction programmes. They will do everything they can to remain invisible, they will not be able to seek medical attention safely, they will not be protected by the law; they will become even more vulnerable than they are now and they will represent a greater obstacle to reduction of HIV transmission.

The Director General of Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) was quoted last year saying, “Gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meagre resources we cannot direct our programmes at them at this time.” Ugandan homosexuals responded:

* 26 years since the epidemic of HIV started there has not been a single government led prevention programme amongst gay Ugandans.
* That from the very beginning of the world wide epidemic it was known that gay men are a vulnerable group.

The statement by the Director General is particularly sad, following statements of other Ugandan leaders that gay people should be marooned on an island to die2, and from an advisor to the UAC that “Our previous experience showed us that bringing homosexuals into campaigns against HIV only gives them a chance to propagate their illegal and unnatural acts.”3

We are Ugandans. We are gay Ugandans.

We have a right to life.

We have a right to health.

We have a right to be free of HIV.

We have a right to knowledge about HIV prevention and treatment. We have a right to protect our selves, our lovers, our families and our communities.

26 years since the HIV epidemic started, Gay Ugandans believe myths and lies about HIV because of biased and unscientific public education campaigns carried out by the government. Despite the lies we have been told, all people have the right to unbiased prevention, care, treatment, and support.

Being gay in Africa is still like being in the belly of the beast. Culture, religion and homophobia aside, bloggers feel that prevention campaigns on HIV among MSM should be active and negative gay stereotypes should be avoided to make gay men more confident in protecting themselves, and governmments should at least make an effort to try and salvage their people from obscurity.

Sebaspace summarises his feelings on the issue:

Sadly, it is unlikely that any African government is paying attention or interested in paying attention. It's criminal really …. utterly diabolical.

Gay Uganda feels that the community in general has to pay too:

To be fair, the community has to pay it with us. So, who's to blame. Seems as if we can start tossing around the blame too.

Tamaku, who writes Diary of a gay Kenya man, writes:

HIV continues to wreak havoc in Sub-Saharan Africa more than in any other region of the world and it appears African males who have sex with men are particularly affected.

One of his readers comments on his post:

ts unfortunate that HIV prevention programmes in most Sub-Saharan African countries are still geared only towards the heterosexual majority. Until recently, quite a few gay men in many countries even believed that the virus was transmitted only via heteroexual sex. MSMs will have rampant unprotected sex with their male partners and because they sleep with only one woman (perhaps their wife), they believe that all is well.

This is a very opportunistic virus that exploits every single chance its given and the rectum with its profusion of capillaries,
together with its liability to rupture is perhaps the single most probable possible point of infection

In highlighting the plight of homosexuals in Africa,The LGBT Asylum posts an article written by Edward Qooro titled, “Activists petition UN over violation of gays’ rights in Tanzania”:

Human rights campaigners have filed a report with the United Nations, complaining against Tanzania's violation of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons .

The report submitted this month to the Human Rights Committee of the UN, seeks to highlight the social and legal obstacles that hinder the freedom of the groups with this type of social relations.

The report was filed by three non-governmental organisations: the Centre for Human Rights Promotion in East Africa, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the Global Rights.

Tamaku had a 3 month poll on his blog asking readers if homosexuality should be decrimanalised in Kenya. 41% said “No” and 28% felt that homosexuality has no place in Kenya. One post on his blog showed that 96% of respondents were against homosexuality:

However, the danger of public hostility is real. A 2005 poll in Kenya showed that 96% of respondents felt that homosexuality was an affront to their beliefs.

Most gay youth who are proud of their identity are now speaking out and looking for gay role models to emulate. Afrogay, a gay Nigerian now living in the United States, writes:

Now Gen X is living a life of based on what the media has given them. Is this what being gay is all about? The answer is no, there are positive good black gay role models out there , some are out some are not. These older men should be able to mentor the younger ones and not seek just sex from them. Encourage them to be positive to build their talent and use it for a purpose.

This is something I seek as a young gay African American. I seek a mentor a role model, I seek one ready to teach and care for a younger gay man.

IS THERE ANY OUT THERE

HIV on the Down Low: Myth & Reality?:

I think we are getting on dangerous grounds as people are refusing to acknowledge that there are people of different sexual orientations and by this! they might be forcing people on the down low (some).

What people fail to realise is that gay people are social beings too, like all the people in the world, they want to love and be loved and engage in bodily pleasure and satisfaction, so if you force them into oblivion and make them hide their sexuality it puts people in the sexual equation at risk.

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