Targeting the Invisible World Of Men Who Have Sex With Men

Published: October 6, 2011

Ask any outreach worker in the fight against HIV transmission and you’ll find one of the hardest at-risk groups to reach is MSM, or men who have sex with men.

Men in this group don’t necessarily identify as gay. Some may be married to women and have families. Some may simply avoid defining their sexual orientation and it is often hard to pinpoint where they gather or connect.

Now, if reaching the MSM  group is challenging here, consider its near impossibility in such homophobic places as Africa, a place still plagued by superstition, repression and an outright burning hostility to any sexual practices beyond the vanilla heterosexual  variety. In many Islamic countries such as Iran and Iraq, being attracted to the same sex may bring instant death by a mob, or less instant death after a shameful “trial” in an Islamic court, which may sentence you to be hanged, often in public.

Attitudes to same-sex attraction in Africa aren’t much better, with a nasty, often violent reaction to same-sex couplings – an official kind of homophobia that is encouraged by the Neanderthal and ignorant Catholic and Anglican churches. Indeed, the current worldwide Anglican communion is deeply split on same-sex rights, thanks largely to the Archbishop of Canterbury kowtowing in fear to the outspoken black African bishops who despise homosexuality and claim God does, too.

You don’t need to go far to stack up evidence of this official homophobia. The president of Iran famously came to the U.S. and told a university audience that same-sex dalliances did not exist in Iran. The evidence in the form of beatings and hangings of gay men tends to undermine his insane statement.

In July, a news item from Ghana highlighted the same problem when a government minister ordered the arrest of any gays or lesbians found in that country’s western region. Paul Evans Aidoo, the minister for the region, directed the Bureau of National Investigations and other agencies to find gay people and bring them before the courts. He also called on landlords and tenants to inform on those they believe to be gay. “All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society,” this enlightened idiot is reported to have said. In Ghana, homosexuality is still considered a moral aberration, or even a myth.

The Constitution guarantees the protection of human rights regardless of “race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender,” but does not mention sexual orientation. Anyway, you can imagine how difficult it is to be gay or lesbian, or a man who has sex with other men, in these regions of ignorance and hostility. Bear in mind, too, that Africa has shocking statistics on HIV transmission and death from AIDS. One UN report suggests that 25 per cent of men who have sex with men are infected with HIV, yet they are invisible in Africa and terrified of seeking testing or medical help.

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