Homophobia and Stigmatization Hamper HIV Prevention Efforts in Mali

Published: March 14, 2011

Religious practices, cultural beliefs and stigmatization by the general population hamper access to health care and HIV/Aids prevention for Malian Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM) and force them into bisexualityor underground sexual practices that put them at high risk of Sexually Transmitted and HIV infections, says Dr Dembelé Bintou Keita, Director of ARCAD/SIDA, an HIV/Aids organization that also provides health care for MSM in Mali.

Dr Dembelé says with over 95% of the population that is religious, the Malian society is not tolerant to MSM who “have no rights and certainly no right to claim their sexual orientation. All cultural beliefs towards MSM are negative.”

She explained, “On a social level, the abuses start in the family. Men who are attracted to other men are forced to get married so that they will not bring shame to the family. The society and the family force them to do what is socially acceptable, so they get married but they still have men as sexual partners.”

According to Dembelé, more than 50% of MSM in Mali are married to women but have sexual practices on the sly with casual male partners , most of the time without protection, and “if they contract STD or HIV infections, they are scared or ashamed to go to a doctor for fear to reveal their bisexual sexual orientation.”

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