As World AIDS Day Approaches: A sad day for LGBT rights in Africa

Published: November 25, 2014

Micheal Ighodaro
Original Article:

As the world prepares to mark this year’s World AIDS Day next Monday, December 1st, we should celebrate our achievements and also recognize the many setbacks that we have to deal with to achieve a world truly free of AIDS.

We know that human rights are fundamental to an effective HIV response—and to the health of all people, everywhere. Yet there continue to be serious attacks on these rights.

Just last week President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, signed a bill into law that can impose life imprisonment for some homosexual acts. The new law focuses on "aggravated homosexuality", a term borrowed from the Ugandan bill that passed earlier this year and was recently overturned on procedural grounds.

The Gambian law targets "serial offenders" and people living with HIV or AIDS. The law also criminalizes the parent or guardian of homosexuals—holding those "in authority over" minors liable for their behavior. People found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” can be sentenced to life in prison.

This year during the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, an abstract presentation on a research study conducted with gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Gambia showed evidence that, as in other West Africa countries, MSM in the Gambia are an underserved population at high risk of HIV and lack sufficient HIV prevention, treatment, and care services. The study found that 20 of the 205 men (9.8%) in the study were HIV-positive, with the highest prevalence in men older than 25 (22.9%, 8 of 35 men). UNAIDS estimates that Gambia has an overall HIV prevalence of 1.3% among 15- to 49-year-olds.

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