Legislation poses a challenge for HIV/AIDS intervention programmes targeted at Pacific men who have sex with men
Issues: In Samoa and other Pacific Islands, current legislation affecting MSM and MSM Positive People is archaic and is heavily influenced by their colonial and religious past. Pacific MSM and MSM Positive People and their Human Rights under constitutional law have been heavily undermined by politically driven amendments or repeals of the most important provision.
Description: Pacific MSM known as Faafafine, Fakaleiti, Akavaine and other Pacific translations are automatically identified as gay,transgender and tranvestite. It is inappropriate to describe this Pacific uniqueness through Western eyes. Sodomy Laws criminalise same sex intimacy between consenting males, justify anti-homosexual discrimination. The Laws do not limit the actual behaviour but serves to demonize, isolate and promote fear and suspicion through ignorance by limiting access to safe sex education. It is through this interpretation that Pacific MSM are at increased risk of contracting HIV since they do not receive safe sex information and are not included in safe sex education, care and treatment.
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Lessons learned: The establishment of the Pacific MSM Network made up of informed organisations, imdividuals and informal groups promote access to knowledge and resources, regional advocacy for policy and legislation change,promotion of social justice and equitable allocation of public resources for HIV care, treatment and other services.
Next steps: Strategies amending Pacific Constitutions with clauses to ensure the protection of Human Rights and include MSM and HIV/AIDS as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Advocacy groups should work to position the community for political change and garner support amongst church leaders to open dialogue on MSM and HIV issues.