Coming Out of the Nkuta: Disclosure of Sexual Orientation Associated with Reduced Risk Behavior Among MSM in Cameroon

Published: February 16, 2012

The situation of sexualminorities inCameroon is ahuman rights
issue (Alternatives Cameroun, Adefho, Human Rights Watch,
IGLHRC, 2010; Alternatives Cameroun, IGLHRC, Center for
Human Rights, Global Rights, 2010). In this country, homosexuality
is not only subject to social rejection but is also punishable
by prison sentences. Although local MSM organizations, supported
by a few human rights organizations, are fighting against
this situation, legislation shall shortly becomeharsher, passing
from 5 to 15 years imprisonment.1 Studies and reports have
shownthatMSMarevictims of diverse formsof physical and/or
psychological violence (Gueboguo, 2006, 2008), such as blackmail
using disclosure of sexual orientation as a threat.

In Cameroon, HIV prevalence is estimated to be 5.3%in the
general population (UNAIDS, 2009). Among the MSM population,
high proportions of sexual risk practices have been
documented (Henry et al., 2010). Although country-level prevalence
data in MSM are unavailable, studies in neighboring
countries have shownmuch higher prevalence inMSMthan in
the general population (Baral, Sifakis, Cleghorn, & Beyrer,
2007; Wade et al., 2005). Access to existing national prevention
and care programs remains difficult for MSM in Cameroon.
The national strategy to fight the HIV epidemic and
provide sexual prevention messages is still almost uniquely
directed at heterosexuals (Henry et al., 2010). Prevention actions
forMSMare often left to the goodwill of local community-based
organizations working in complex and hostile social, political,
and sometimes legal environments, where few people aremobilized
on the subject. The difficulty in disclosing one’s sexual
orientation compounds these problems.

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