UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot on Sunday said that an Indian law criminalizing sex between men is a "major obstacle" to the country's efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, News Track India reports. Piot called the law a "violation of human rights" and said that it should have been abolished a long time ago. The law is being deliberated during hearings on a petition to decriminalize homosexuality.
The United Nations last week called on India to decriminalize homosexuality, effectively overturning the law that has been in place since British colonial rule and carries either a lifetime prison sentence, 10-year prison sentence or a fine. The law poses obstacles to providing HIV/AIDS services in India because of a taboo against men who have sex with men and a fear of speaking out about sexual preferences. Piot said, "For India now, the focus area is the MSM population. This is a problem, which is common to other Asian countries also. It has become quite an epidemic among this group -- just as it was in the Western countries in the 1980s."
He added that the law could "pose a problem for public health preparedness" by hurting the efforts of HIV/AIDS workers and advocates. Piot also recognized the work of India's Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who has called for the law to be overturned (News Track India, 11/17).
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