December 7, 2011
Safeguarding the human rights of gay men is an important part of the fight against AIDS, a World Health Organization official said Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa. "If you want to achieve zero new infections, you have to address the human rights issues," Ying-Ru Lo said. "We must ensure the well-being of the most marginalized groups." Stigma and discrimination are blocking access to AIDS treatment and thus boosting HIV infection rates among gay men in developing countries, she said. In lower-income nations, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to contract HIV, according to a 2011 WHO report. Homosexuality remains illegal in more than 75 nations and is highly stigmatized in Africa, the region hit hardest by HIV/AIDS. Beginning to speak openly about homosexuality is a critical first step, said Teguest Guerma, director-general of the African Medical and Research Foundation: "In the past they were really underground; at least now they are coming to the surface." ICASA has scheduled three sessions on the rights of MSM affected by HIV/AIDS.