AIDS 2010 Roundup: Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)
August 10, 2010
Two dominant themes that emerged from AIDS 2010 were 1) how to better protect the human rights of gay men in Africa and 2) how homophobia, criminalization, policing and stigma contribute to the rise in HIV rates among MSM of the African diaspora (people of African descent who now live outside Africa). Blogger Rod McCullom touched upon this topic in an article for Black AIDS Institute:
More than 80 nations have laws that still criminalize same sex behavior. In some of these countries, conviction can even result in the death penalty, reports UNAIDS.
Further exacerbating the problem, according to a report by Planned Parenthood, "58 countries have laws that criminalize HIV or use existing laws to prosecute people for transmitting the virus. Another 33 countries are considering similar legislation."
The trend is "even more pronounced" across Africa and the Diaspora, said Joel Gustave Nana, executive director of the Johannesburg, South Africa-based African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (ASMSHer). The West African laws vary in extremity -- just "exposing a person to HIV, regardless of if the virus is transmitted, is a crime in Benin, and Tanzanian law carries a possible sentence of life in prison for intentional transmission," reports Medical News Today. While the overall life for Black MSM may be better in North America, there are drawbacks. The United States and Canada lead the world when it comes to prosecuting people who infect or expose others to HIV, a surprising new study reveals. Black men have been disproportionately targeted with these prosecutions. A Black, gay, HIV-positive Michigan man was recently charged as a bioterrorist for allegedly biting a neighbor's lip during a scuffle, Black AIDS Weekly reported in June.
HIV/AIDS phobia and homophobia are harsh realities in many communities and are perpetuated not just by the government, but in churches, the media and in society as a whole. All of which make MSM deeply vulnerable to HIV infection, according to research presented at AIDS 2010. For instance, Joseph Barker presented findings about how mistreatment and stigma impact gay and bisexual men in Kampala, Uganda. Barker found that "men who have sex with men who have suffered homophobic violence or abuse are five times more likely to be HIV-positive than other men," according to an aidsmap.com report. "Just under 40% of men had ever been physically abused, four out of ten had been blackmailed at some point, and a quarter had been forced to have sex."
Aidsmap.com also notes on Barker's research:
The researchers wished to identify the demographic or behavioral characteristics that were most strongly associated with HIV infection. In multivariate analysis, factors such as condom use or numbers of partners were not significantly associated with having HIV. In fact, only two factors were: age and homophobic abuse.
Men aged 25 or over were four times more likely to have HIV (odds ratio 4.3, 95% confidence interval 1.5 to 12.8). Amongst men over 25, HIV prevalence was 22.4%.
Men who had ever experienced violence or abuse because of their sexuality were five times more likely to have HIV (odds ratio 4.8, 95% confidence interval 1.8 to 13.1). Of the whole sample, 37% had been physically abused at some point, 37% had been blackmailed and 26% had been forced to have sex.
In a panel earlier in the week, Joel Nana said that addressing the human rights issue in addition to the public health aspect is crucial in fully attacking the problem. Nana told the crowd, "The life of men who have sex with men doesn't only revolve around health or the lack of health." He added, "There are other issues -- such as extortion, harassment, expulsion from schools, unlawful arrest and detention, disownment by families and economic disenfranchisement -- that deserve equal attention."
- Men Who Have Sex With Men: Homophobia and HIV in Africa (Video presentation from IAC)
- Know Your Epidemic, Know Your Response: MSM and Their Needs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (Video presentation from IAC)
- AIDS 2010 Calls for Treatment and Prevention Support for Men Having Sex With Men (From Voice of America)
- AIDS 2010 Day Three: Human Rights Now! (Video Blog)
- Malawi Must Repeal Gay Laws -- Activists (From AfricaNews)
- Africa: Study Links Homophobia, HIV (CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- International News)
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