The African Union must end its silence concerning homophobia on the continent and take urgent measures to stop this "growing and insidious contagion," the group AIDS-Free World says.
"The problem is definitely getting worse," said Paula Donovan, the organization's co-director. "Homophobia seems to be spreading like a contagion from country to country in Africa. And the efforts to criminalize homosexuality ... [have] been taken up by increasing numbers of parliaments and promoted by increasing numbers of African leaders, including heads of state and prime ministers."
Uganda has recently considered laws that would impose harsh penalties for homosexual acts, with one measure calling for the death penalty in some cases. A gay couple in Malawi was prosecuted after their relationship became public. Other such incidents have occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and recently, Ghana, said Donovan.
Many African leaders have called for the end of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, Donovan acknowledged. However, "It's been pointed too narrowly at people who are already HIV-positive," she said. "Tolerance, openness, and refusal to discriminate have to apply to people before they are HIV-positive, as well as after." "As long as you discriminate against people and drive them into the margins of society, then you're going to exacerbate your HIV problems."
Donavan said she is "not quite sure what happened to trigger this new wave of homophobia across Africa," where national leaders historically have declared homosexuality a Western phenomenon that did not exist on the continent.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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