Nairobi: October 10, 2012: Sex between men is stigmatized, officially denied and criminalized in many parts of the world, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the groups that are at high risk of HIV infection, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) are particularly vulnerable, but they are unable to access treatment and care services due to social, religious and political stigma.
This discrimination only serves to add to their vulnerability, and makes it nearly impossible to carry out relevant HIV prevention, treatment, care and support activities. In places where homosexuality is not tolerated, MSM often hide their same-sex relations from their friends and families to avoid persecution. Many have wives and children, or have sex with women as well as men. As a result, those who are infected with HIV are likely to transmit it to their female partners.
The African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) advocates a human rights-based approach in providing access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support of MSM without stigma and discrimination.
Based on the principles of medical ethics and the right to health, AMREF strongly supports the principle that health services should be inclusive and easily available to MSM. Creating inclusive health services requires strategies to sensitize and educate providers and other staff members in health care and social service settings, keeping in mind that safe and inclusive public services, and the underlying principle of non-discrimination, are vital for the community’s health, well-being and dignity. Moreover, MSM living with HIV should have the same access to ART as other populations.
AMREF strongly believes that the promotion of a legal and social environment that protects human rights and ensures access to prevention, treatment, care and support without discrimination or criminalization is essential for achieving an effective response to the HIV epidemic and promoting public health among the MSM population.
AMREF recommends that health care providers should be respectful of diversity, aware of their professional obligations, and informed of the specific health and social needs of MSM.
AMREF advocates for policy-makers, parliamentarians and other public leaders to work together with civil society organizations in their efforts to confront the realities of discrimination against MSM, and transform punitive legal and social norms into protective ones. They should always remember that stigma and discrimination create barriers to many public services and, as such, undermine public health, human rights and the response to HIV.
AMREF recommends that legislators and other government authorities establish and enforce anti-discrimination and protective laws, derived from international human rights standards, in order to eliminate stigma, discrimination and violence faced by MSM and transgender people, and reduce their vulnerability to infection with HIV and the impacts of HIV and AIDS.
- African Governments to increase access to health services for MSM as a comprehensive strategy to reduce stigma and discrimination in the fight against HIV and AIDS
- African governments and health professional bodies to ensure access to health for all their citizens by developing and enforcing regulation against discrimination based on sexual orientation
- African governments and development partners to invest in strategies to sensitize and educate providers and other staff members in health care and social service settings on inclusive health services