Forum Urges Asia to Decriminalize Homosexuality
February 20, 2009
A three-day forum on Asia's growing HIV/AIDS epidemic concluded today in Hong Kong with calls for regional governments to follow China's lead and decriminalize homosexuality.
Zhen Li of the awareness group Tong Zhi said China's move to repeal laws against homosexuality in 2001 had helped curb the spread of HIV there. "Between 2005 and 2008, China made huge progress (in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals) in addition to working with civil society as partners," Li said.
But the "highly prohibitive legal frameworks" against homosexuality that exist elsewhere in Asia have allowed the virus to make inroads among men who have sex with men (MSM), the forum's organizers -- UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the UN Development Program (UNDP), and the Hong Kong Department of Health -- said in a statement. "As long as these laws are in effect it will push people into dark places," Li said.
Citing India as an example, UNDP's Edmund Settle noted that many of the Asian countries that ban homosexuality are former British colonies.
Hong Kong's HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns will continue to prioritize young MSM, said Wong Ka-Hing, a consultant in special preventive programs for the city's health department. "In Hong Kong, we are facing a rising epidemic among [MSM] that is why we have tried to target scarce resources towards the most vulnerable sections of the community," Wong said.
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