Monday, May 31, 2010

HIV's ugly head

Seems we spend too little time talking about this beast.

For gay men in Africa, it is a threat. We have to remember it. No. Not a threat like for the Ssempa's and the Bahati's who believe the only way that we can do HIV prevention for gay men is to put them in prison or kill them. But, it is a threat that we need to remember. Always. Here are two articles.

Secret gay sex fuels HIV spread in Africa

May 30, 2010 12:00 AM
By Claire Keeton
The hidden HIV epidemic among men in Africa who have sex with other men - many of whom have wives - is fuelling the Aids crisis on the continent.
"In Africa, HIV prevalence is high in young women and that's the picture we have of what's driving the epidemic," Professor Salim Abdool Karim, director of HIV/Aids research institution Caprisa, told the M2010 Microbicides conference this week.
"What's been forgotten is the hidden side of the epidemic, since same-sex relationships are criminalised in 37 out of 54 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
"In reality, HIV is really common among gay men throughout Africa. We simply don't talk about it."
Well, we simply have to start talking about HIV and gay sex amongst African men.
And, it is not only us who have to talk about it. Our HIV prevention programs have to deal with this problem head on.
Studies show that men who have sex with men are at high risk of HIV infection - particularly in Africa, where safe access to prevention tools and services is restricted.

Up to 3% of men in South Africa are thought to have had homosexual intercourse. In Tanzania the estimate is 2% to 3%, and in Kenya up to 0.9%.
About a third of these men report they are married or in stable heterosexual relationships. The overlapping of sexual networks allows the virus to thrive.
Viral fingerprinting (genotype data) has found that the strains of HIV circulating across gay and heterosexual networks match one another.
South Africa has one of the worst HIV prevalence rates in the world, and prevalence among men who have sex with men is similar to that of the general population, estimated at about 13%.
HIV prevention efforts aimed at men who sleep with men are needed - about 20% of new infections are among this group - yet health activists are hamstrung by widespread political and cultural hostility to same-sex relationships.
Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, said in response to the recent imprisonment in Malawi of two men for being gay: "The criminalisation of individuals based on their sexual orientation is not just a human rights issue - it also ... drives sexual behaviour underground and creates an environment where HIV can more easily spread.
"This ultimately affects the broader population, in addition to the devastating impact it has on men who have sex with men."
It reminds me of what happened in 2007. We had an HIV meeting in Kampala, Uganda. And, at the beginning of that international conference, the Director General of Uganda's AIDS Programme was asked why Uganda didnt have an HIV programme for gay men. For the first time he acknowledged that gay men did have a problem. Called us one of the drivers of the epidemic. And then said there was not enough money for us to be targeted for HIV prevention.... Of course, what followed was the protest, and arrest and prosecution of some of us. History...!

In an accompanying editorial to the story, the author expands on her points.
Urgent need for human rights, HIV services for gay men in AfricaPosted: May 30th, 2010

By Claire Keeton
The criminalisation of men who have sex with men is driving gay relationships underground in Africa and this discrimination is contributing to the spread of HIV on the continent.
The urgent need for access to health services for men who have sex with men, respect for their sexual orientation and protection in law, and lobbying for their human rights, emerged clearly at the M2010 Microbicides: Building Bridges in HIV Prevention conference in Pittsburgh, in the US, this week.
That was a key point in my article in the Sunday Times today – but I feel concerned that the headline “Secret gay sex fuels HIV spread in Africa” conveys a negative message.
What I feel negative about is the intolerable discrimination against men who have sex with men and how that isolates them from prevention, care and treatment.
We do need to talk about HIV amongst gay men in Africa.

Not in thinking of newer and more draconian punishments to put gay men in prison or to death. Not to tell each other that gay Africans do not exist. And not to push the problem under the carpet, and gloss it over with the presumed virility of African men.

Talking about the problem, having HIV prevention programs, that is not 'promotion of homosexuality'. It is realistic dealing with the disease.

And, us gay African men, we need to really look at the problem from a very personal point of view.



Rebel said...

Gays is having unprotected sex is a problem in Europe too. Why I do not understand, since everyone knows AIDS. African gays are a little more excused, because there's probably not the same awareness.

Jim Pickett - IRMA chair said...

Gay men and other men who have sex with men in Africa have been terribly neglected in the HIV epidemic - explaining why the rates are so disproportionate in most African countries, save South Africa where they are essentially the same. I was at Dr. Karim's talk at M2010 in Pittsburgh, and posted a blog - Does Africa Need a Rectal Microbicide? The answer - YES! - which links to his slides. Give them a look if you are interested.

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