A Matter of Life and Death-Homophobia Threatens HIV/AIDS Work in Africa

Published: April 12, 2010

A Matter of Life and Death-Homophobia Threatens HIV/AIDS Work in Africa

In February, peer educators at an HIV clinic in Kenya that serves men who have sex with men (MSM) were savagely beaten by an anti-gay mob that doused some of the men with kerosene and tried to set them on fire. In Malawi, a leader of a grassroots group working to stop HIV/AIDS among MSM went to his local police station to file a report after a break-in at his office—and was arrested for distributing HIV prevention materials the police deemed “pornographic.” And in Uganda, the country’s legislature is seriously considering anti-gay laws that would make consensual sex among HIV-positive adults punishable by death.

Homophobia, of course, is present in every country. But a wave of homophobic rhetoric and violence in some African countries is undermining efforts to combat high rates of HIV/AIDS among MSM. Human rights activists, AIDS advocates, and grassroots MSM organizations—including a number of groups funded by amfAR’s MSM Initiative—say that the progress that had been made over the past several years in reaching African MSM is being threatened by a new climate of fear and repression that is sweeping parts of the continent.

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