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Gay Men and HIV/AIDS Around the World

Gay Men and HIV/AIDS Around the World

At a huge international HIV/AIDS conference, spoke with several individuals that hail from some of the toughest countries in the world when it comes to being gay and HIV positive. Read to the voices of these men and women as they respond to the question: What's Life Like for HIV-Positive Gay Men in the Country Where You Live or Work?

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Paul Semugoma, M.D.

Paul Semugoma, M.D., Uganda

I'm Dr. Paul Semugoma. I work in Uganda with KULHAS, which is Kuchus [gay men] Living With HIV/AIDS.

What is life like for HIV-positive gay men in Uganda? It's not easy, because they are living in a kind of double closet.

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Ian McKnight

Ian McKnight, Jamaica

I'm Ian McKnight. My present job is with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, which is a Caribbean coalition of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that do work with marginalized groups, among which we work with MSM [men who have sex with men].

In the Caribbean, men who have sex with men suffer extreme discrimination and stigmatization. We have seen where that has resulted in people being beaten, people being killed in Jamaica. We saw that recently in Nassau. We see, for example, where the violence is catching on in countries like Antigua and St. Lucia. We're also seeing deaths, and we're seeing people threatened.

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Venkatesan Chakrapani, M.D.

Venkatesan Chakrapani, M.D., India

I'm Dr. Venkatesan Chakrapani from India. I'm with the Indian Network for People Living With HIV.

A person who is a man who has sex with men as well as HIV positive has to face double discrimination from the society, meaning being both positive as well as being MSM, which is not accepted in the general public, as well as within the HIV-positive community. Sometimes an MSM living with HIV may not be affected by the mainstream positive people. In that way, they are facing discrimination, but from the general public, from the health care providers, as well as from the mainstream positive people.

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Anita Radix, M.D.

Anita Radix, M.D., Grenada/New York

My name is Anita Radix and I'm originally from Grenada, which is in the Caribbean. I recently relocated to New York. I'm a physician. I work with HIV-positive patients.

Of course it's very different in New York, but when I was working in the Caribbean it was a very difficult situation to work as a physician with clients who were really not able to access care. Especially for MSM, there's a great deal of invisibility. A lot of people don't want to disclose their sexuality or what they're doing.

As one of the few "out" physicians -- I'm a lesbian physician -- I did get a lot of MSM clients who felt comfortable coming to me. But, for the majority of people, they don't [access care].

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Ruben del Prado

Ruben del Prado, Guyana/Suriname

Hi, I'm Ruben del Prado. I'm the UNAIDS country coordinator working in two countries in South America. One is called Guyana and one is called Suriname.

Being gay in both countries is quite different. In Guyana, for instance, the laws of the land are still very much discriminatory of homosexuality. In Suriname, they're not. That immediately gives it a different perspective. In Guyana, being HIV positive and gay is a double jeopardy. It is very, very difficult. In Suriname, of course, being homosexual is a lot less repressed, but being HIV positive is not easy.

Joseph Akoro

Joseph Akoro, Nigeria

My name is Joseph Akoro. I'm from Nigeria. My organization is The Independent Project for Equal Rights [TIP]. Basically, what we do is we work on human rights and also HIV/AIDS issues in the LGBT community in general.

Our special focus [is on] young people, because we know that these people are the most vulnerable to HIV infection and human rights violations based on sexual orientation, which affects sexual behaviors, whether protected or unprotected.

To be HIV positive as a young person and a gay man -- or a man who has sex with men, however you identify -- in Nigeria is bizarre because the law discriminates against you having sex with a man, so you do not have any access to health care as someone who has sex with a man. Also, the government does not even provide those services because they do not acknowledge men who have sex with men.

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Michel De Groulard

Michel De Groulard, Trinidad and Tobago

My name is Michel de Groulard. I am a UNAIDS regional program advisor in the regional office of Trinidad and Tobago for the Caribbean.

I have been living in Trinidad for a number of years in different capacities, so I know Trinidad pretty well and I know the gay community pretty well as well. I am really concerned about the young people, the young gay men in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of them have been infected at the age of 15 or 16. Most of the time they have been raped by older men, not knowing at that time what was really happening to them. But because of that, they got infected with HIV.

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Orchid Gowe Hunter

Orchid Gowe Hunter, Jamaica

My name is Orchid Gowe Hunter and I'm a nurse working for Jamaica AIDS Support for Life for the past 12 years. I have been working with MSM, sex workers, heterosexuals and a wide cross-section of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

For MSM and their family members, from what I have observed, most families, most of these persons are not accepted by their family members -- just a few. For those who are not accepted, most of them are merely turned out on the streets, abandoned by their family, or are discriminated [against] in society, and family members also discriminate [against] these persons. Life is not so nice in Jamaica for MSM right now.

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Caleb Orozco

Caleb Orozco, Belize

Caleb Orozco. I'm from Belize. I am the president of the United Belize Advocacy Movement. We're the only MSM organization in the country. We were inspired by a multicentric study in development, and we've never looked back since 2006.

What's life like in Belize? It depends upon your age group and your class group. For [those in] the age group of 18 to 24 who are closeted or who are HIV positive, the experiences are different.

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Olanrewaju Onigbogi

Olanrewaju Onigbogi, M.D., Nigeria

My name is Olanrewaju Onigbogi. I work as a public health physician at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria.

I would like to start by giving people a perspective of Nigeria. Nigeria is such a big country, and I work as a researcher in Ibadan, which is in the southwestern part of the country. Many national HIV rates aren't really correct, so the best you can have are regional rates based on work that people have actually done in their region. So I'll be talking strictly about my work around the area where I live.

The HIV situation in Nigeria: I can say it's stabilizing. It was getting worse a few years ago, but now the rates are going down. The data also show that the infection rates are going down.

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