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Report Finds Homophobia Contributes to AIDS Epidemic in Africa

Report Finds Homophobia Contributes to AIDS Epidemic in Africa

Spiraling rates of HIV infection in Africa, especially amongst Africa’s gay population, have been attributed to “a wall of silence, repression and discrimination” by Oxford scientists who have posted their findings in a paper made available through online journal the Lancet.

A research team at Oxford University, London, examined studies on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in sub-Saharan Africa taken from 2003 to 2009. They found that there was a huge prevalence amongst men who had sexual relationships with other men, and found that, in some areas of Africa, the rate of infection was up to ten times higher than in solely heterosexual men from the same region.

This higher rate, which varies throughout Africa but demonstrates a trend of nearly always being higher in men who have had sexual contact with other men, is “driven by cultural, religious and political unwillingness to accept [gay men] as equal members of society,” the research concludes.

One of the researchers, Adrian Smith, noted that a “profound stigma and social hostility at every level of society concerning… same-sex behaviors amongst men” created an inability to reach and educate the individuals involved.

In the same interview logged with the BBC, Smith also told that the study’s findings demonstrated another worrying trend: that because homosexuality was so stigmatized in the first instance, gay men were more likely to be affiliated with other forms of risky behavior, such as intravenous drug use and prostitution, increasing their risk of contracting and passing on the HIV virus yet further still.

The research paper also found that because of the taboo nature attached to homosexuality, many gay men would also have female partners, perhaps even wives and children. Because of this, the impact of stigmatizing homosexuality resulted in increased risk behaviors by men trying to cover up their same-sex attraction, spreading HIV to their female partners, passing the disease to their children and so on, meaning that these findings had greater significance than just impacting Africa’s gay community: they hold national impetus.

Education is the Focus for Halting the AIDS Crisis
Statistics are difficult to come by for gauging exactly how many gay men reside in Africa, so calculating the true proportion of those infected is problematic, and reaching them in order to educate on safe-sex and HIV awareness almost impossible. Even more worryingly, of men identifying as heterosexual but having had sexual contact with other men, the study also found that those men believed that it wasn’t possible to contract HIV through anal intercourse with someone of the same gender.

What is required of aid agencies, the study says, is to make readily available basic health care messages, and perhaps most importantly, to have every person who could be infected tested. This is something the report says needs to be backed by the African government, who have, in the past, been reticent to tackle the AIDS crisis.

The journal notes that there could currently be over 21,000 Africans who are HIV-positive but do not know it. But, in order to educate those involved correctly, the paper reports that only a radical reform in attitudes toward gay men and homosexuality within Africa’s government and general population will do, as well as a reassessment of the use of condoms, which, due to deep religiosity in the country, remains a hotly debated topic.

Finally, to put into perspective how truly disturbing this report might be, figures issued by the UN agency UNAIDS estimates that there are 33 million people with HIV in the world. Approximately two-thirds live in sub-Saharan Africa. Many are worried that the world is now fast approaching a global tipping point, at which point the AIDS epidemic will be beyond control. Recent reports suggest India and Former Soviet States such as Russia might already be nearing the brink.

The AIDS crisis in Africa is well known, but with South Africa having just cut funding to AIDS vaccine research, and a new report suggesting that HIV vaccine research funding has decreased worldwide for the first time since 2000, demonstrating a 10 percent drop since 2008, it seems the message of just how serious the HIV/AIDS crisis is may no longer be getting through.


3 Care2 Actions You Can Take:

Help Children with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Trygveu.

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66 comments

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4:21AM PDT on Jul 30, 2010

I`d like to add that syphilis is caused by a micro-organism called`treponema pallidum`` which was introduced into human populations by shepherds watching their flocks by night. And not always seated on the ground.

4:18AM PDT on Jul 30, 2010

A bit of solid history folks from someone with an excellent medical & scientific background & years of experience with AIDS. I am an expert in nothing, but have seen firsthand the progression of AIDS from the very beginning, before HIV was even identified. Several things are notable from the early years.First of all, the US gay community acted alone with no support from anywhere in attempting to stem the spread of HIV. Their efforts were heroic.But the religious right; largely under the umbrella group the badly misnamed Moral Majority; fiercely & successfully; opposed the use of any public funds for HIV research. The subsequent delay in acquiring effective treatment options denied thousands even a fighting chance at survival. There`s plenty more but time & space don`t allow a full accounting. In the fullness of time; this will be seen as one of the most neglected crimes against humanity in human history.And,....HIV is a monster to deal with, but the fluidity of semen is often secondary. HIV is lousy at replicating itself & churns out a lot of dud copies.So it has developed a compensatory mechanism whereby it replicates itself millions of times in a 24 hour period. Yes- that`s millions! This is a medical/scientific issue; not a moral one. Centuries ago, most upper crust Christians eventually ended up with syphilis, & in the tertiary stages, they lost their hair.Thus, aristocrats such as judges; began the tradition of wearing wigs.

11:24AM PDT on Aug 3, 2009

This would be a useful thread were it not for the misguided religious rantings. The gay liberation movement would not have achieved its success were it not for the help of the majority straight community. I am particularly proud of all the young people who now consider alternative forms of sexual expression normal and acceptable. Personally, I suspect there might be a God, and know many loving and non-racist or homophobic Christians, and would not denigrate another person’s faith, unless he or she turns it against me, or others in a harmful way. My point? People who spew hatred are dangerous to us all, and damage any real faith in anything, spiritual or secular. Turn the clock back and the same bigots would be persecuting Copernicus or Galileo. Now, how did that benefit us as a species? How does hate benefit us now? Not one bit. Hate is blasphemous, period, no matter which holy book you read, even if it is the 1976 Topeka Yellow Pages.

2:47AM PDT on Aug 3, 2009

Hello Ron
(a). If you a biology student you clearly still need to have your education "BROADENED"' . Try and visit DC and see whether you can get hold of Bronislow Malinowki's book on "The Sexual Behaviour Patterns of the American Male". if you cannot get extracts 'On-line' from Wikipedia , Google etc ! You might, after reading it, discover that "SEX", as you call it, by which I assume you mean 'Sexual Intercourse' is a culmination of fairly COMPLEX HUMAN (and other species in BIOLOGY) BEHAVIOUR ! It depends on a 'Hormone Surge' in response to a number of 'exciting' events in the environment leading up to it. The response depends on how the body-cells themselves are PROGRAMMED , that is 'Gender Oriented'' and that is most certainly NOT UNDER YOUR CONTROL, no matter how 'Chic' you may think yourself to be !
(b).'HOMOPHOBIA' as I pointed out earlier, comes from a highly respected classical language biology students may not know much of ! Its made up of 2 words (i).'HOMO' = (generic) MAN and PHOBIA= 'A Dislike' ,Fear, or Hate
It is a very BRAVE PERSON who takes it upon himself to 'MOCK and CONDEMN' their fellow men , because, he might just 'TRIP and STUMBLE' one day and perish on his own sword !
TAKE CARE Ron !
_d'Albert Matlhoko

4:41PM PDT on Aug 2, 2009

homophobic is one of the dumb words that needs to be nuked out of our dictionary along with homosexual an oxymoron any biology student knows theres sex only between the male and female of the species. i suggest using some other word for these abiological erotic encounters. as for aids and hiv , the risk for "gays" is much higher than regulars whether we like it or not. and lets separate the medical facts from the politics of the gay issue.

1:29AM PDT on Aug 1, 2009

dear Dolores
I agree entirely ! The ULTIMATE DENIAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS ARE PERMISSIVE SOCIAL ACTIONS THAT FACILITATE THE SPREAD OF THIS RUTHLESS DISEASE_HIV-AIDS, either knowingly, through nrglrct, through denial of resources (including healthcare education and preventive measures) and indeed even social attitudes inclding 'HOMOPHOBIA',('Homos = 'generic man'; 'Phobos'= Hate), which includes hating men, women and children , for whatever reason, but ESPECIALLY IF THEY CARRY HIV_AIDS ! PLEASE, LET US ALL RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE'S ' Life ,Liberty and Justice

12:14AM PDT on Aug 1, 2009

Dear Ray
I beg your pardon your comments have only just caome to my attention.You seem to have completely MISSED the point I was trying to make on "BROAD HUMAN BEHAVIOURS and ATTITUDE"S".OFCOURSE HIV_AIDS is caused by EXCHANGE OF BODY FLUIDS, which carry the VIRUS ! HOMOPHOBIA intimidates and terrorises people carrying the virus, especially (but not exclusively) if they are homosexual! They then conceal their çarrier'status , for fear of being 'bashed'by homophobics, when ,like all human beings, they fish around to satisfy their 'pressing'physiological needs ! In a NON-HOMOPHOBIC SOCIETY, such a person would be likely to declare both his sexual orientation and perhaps even his çarier status'our of a SHEER SENSE OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY! Ofcourse'even 'WELL TAUGHT TEENS'are well aware of the fact that HIV_AIDS is caused by exchange of 'BODY-FLUIDS 'carrying' viruses or viritids ! SOCIAL INTOLERANCE and BIGOTED PRUDISH ATTITUDES do NOT CAUSE HIV_AIDS, BUT ENCOURAGE ITS SPREAD !
I hope you do now understand my the 'BROAD POINT'I was trying to convey about 'SOCIAL INTOLERANCE'generally,not only towards Homosexuals but towards the disabled, the aged, women , other ethnic groups and son on !
g'Day Sir
_dÁlbert Matlhoko

7:22PM PDT on Jul 30, 2009

David, I suggest you educate yourself on the matter. HIV is transmitted by bodily fluids, being more highly concentrated in blood, actually, than in semen. It does not discriminate based on sexual preference. I used to work in an STD clinic, and I know for a fact you are wrong about this.

4:03PM PDT on Jul 27, 2009

Along with world peace, my other "hope" is that the time will come when we stop pointing fingers at others to say "it's ???????? fault this is happening!," and start figuring a way to mend a situation! For those of us who grew up with the cry from mothers: "why would he buy the cow when he can get the milk FREE?!" the fear of pregnancy is no longer and issue. Now days you practically have to BOIL people before you go to bed with them, and recent info I was given is an age group of 40-55 men have the highest rate of HIV positive! Yes, many are straight, married, and truly believed the ad that said what happens in Las Vegas stays there! LOL And how could such a pretty lady not be healthy for a one night stand? Bottomline - self responsibility for yourself - this is not the free love days of the 60s - rather than asking "what's your sign?" people should be asking "where's your health certificate?" Common sense combined with self responsibility training should start with young teens and adults have no excuse of ignorance. Let's start working together to stop the spread of the disease without judging and belittling - we all are affected by this one way or another. Team effort is required, not attitude.

1:54PM PDT on Jul 27, 2009

It is through awareness and education that we can combat HIV"

Human rights are integral to the fight against HIV/AIDS. An open and supportive rights-based approach to HIV/AIDS is essential to ensure that everyone enjoys full access to means of prevention, voluntary counselling and testing, and long-term sustainable treatment, care and support, and can live free from fear, violence and discrimination. Without such an approach, increasing numbers of people will be deprived of the
possibility to live a secure and fulfilling life.

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