AIDS 2010: Joel Nana on African Gay/Bi Men, HIV and Human Rights

Published: July 27, 2010

One of the standout programs at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna was organized by The Global Forum on MSM & HIV and featured the debut of the Johns Hopkins-World Bank’s global survey of HIV epidemics. The survey found that the ongoing persecution and criminalization of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men—“MSM”, in public health jargon—are undermining efforts to control the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

More than 80 nations have laws that still criminalize same sex behavior, according to UNAIDS. And 58 countries criminalize HIV transmission or use existing laws to prosecute people for transmitting the virus. "The trend is even more pronounced across Africa and the Black Diaspora," said Joel Gustave Nana, executive director of the Johannesburg, South Africa -based African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (ASMSHer).Nana spoke with Rod 2.0 at the press conference organized by the Global Forum and UNAIDS.

We’ve seen these HIV prosecutions in the United States and Canada. They seem to be increasing. What are you seeing in Africa?

The prosecutions are arbitrary. The stigma, discriminatory laws and criminalization of HIV transmission encourage the spread of this disease. Why should someone seek testing or medical advice come forward if you could be arrested? There is no incentive to come forward and seek help in a repressive atmosphere.

We’ve recently had some good news in the States. President Obama’s new National HIV/AIDS Strategy identified Black MSM as a priority in fighting AIDS. Several African nations have done this as well, right?

In most countries [in Africa] they have come to understand there is a hidden epidemic. In the continent we now have 14 countries out of 54 that include men who have sex with men in their national strategic plans. It doesn’t mean the services will be delivered to those populations, but it is an acknowledgment which is a step. I have been seeing in some countries … they know that MSM exist and they are starting not to disturtb them. Slowly there are starting to address these groups and issues … it’s a result of the growing visibility of MSM on the continent.

What about Kenya? They were the first African nation to include MSM in their national IV strategy and there are a number of Kenyan MSM peer educators at AIDS 2010 …

Kenya is starting to look like one of the countries that we should look up to. There is a growing LGBT movement. There is an HIV movement that is more open to include MSM. Yes, you could say there is a strong MSM movement in Kenya. It is one of the few countries countries in Africa where a MSM organization was able to place an ad in the newspaper for the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17. I do think that Kenya is starting to look like one of the few success stories in Africa, in terms of successfully integrate MSM into HIV prevention.

Thanks for talking to me.

No, thank you!

-See link below for the original story; this story was also circulated by the India Times

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