Criminalizing LGBTs Harms HIV Prevention


A new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) supports known concerns that criminalization of men who have sex with men and stigmatization of trans identity is hampering HIV prevention efforts.

The report, entitled “Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men and transgender people,” gives a guidelines focus on the prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and includes evidence based recommendations, implementation issues and key research gaps. The report is particularly concerned with low-and middle-income countries, but WHO is keen to stress this guidance is also applicable communities in high-income countries as well.

The report is a response to a recent resurgence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM), a trend most startling in industrialized countries. Men who have sex with men are, WHO estimates, 20 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population, while the infection rate among transgender citizens can range from 8-68% depending on the country or region. Data also suggests newly identified HIV epidemics among MSM in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Part of the reason for that, the study finds, is because of persecution and stigmatization of LGBT identity.

From the WHO press release:

One reason for this is the stigma experienced by many men who have sex with men and transgender people. In many countries, criminalization of same sex relationships drives such relationships underground, making people afraid to seek HIV prevention and treatment services. WHO and its partners advise more inclusive approaches and suggest some practical ways to improve their access to HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services.

“We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO’s Director of HIV/AIDS Department. “We are issuing these guidelines to help countries and communities scale-up the services needed to reduce new infections and save lives.”

“Men who have sex with men and transgender people everywhere face huge difficulties in accessing HIV services,” said George Ayala, Executive Director of the Global Forum MSM & HIV (MSMGF), a key partner in producing the recommendations. “The guidelines both present evidence for effective prevention interventions for these populations and provide recommendations to help ensure that pervasive barriers like stigma and criminalization no longer stand in the way of life-saving services.”


“Urgent action is needed to ensure that the basic human rights of people most at risk of HIV infection are respected and that they have the information and tools to protect themselves against HIV and gain access to antiretroviral therapy if needed,” said Mariangela Simao, Chief, Prevention, Vulnerability and Rights, UNAIDS.

The “Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men and transgender people: Recommendations for a public health approach” guidelines provide 21 key recommendations for combating HIV and STI infection for these at risk groups. You can read those in full in the report, but a general overview is as follows.

The guidelines recommend:

– national policy makers develop inclusive human rights laws and health services by enacting nondiscrimination rules and publicizing inclusive, nonthreatening environments for MSM and trans people;

– health service providers develop inclusive nondiscrimination policies tailored to encourage MSM and transgender people to avail themselves of services without threat of stigmatization or harassment;

– communities should scale-up HIV and STI prevention efforts specifically targeting MSM and transgender people in ways that emphasize nondiscrimination; and

– for affected individuals it is important that they (be allowed to) practice consistent condom use as opposed to choosing partners based on HIV infection status.

It is the first time guidelines specifically for men who have sex with men and trans people have been issued. The guidelines were developed as a result of year-long consultation with global public health officials, scientists, and, among others, health service providers.

To read the report in full, please click here.

Related Reading:

Young Gay Men in Serious Relationships Need to Practice Safe Sex Too

Study Suggests Higher Cancer Rate Among Gay Men, Poorer Health Among Lesbian and Bisexual Survivors

LGBT Elders Fear Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities Says New Report

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


Sergio Salazar
Sergio Salazar6 years ago

I am a molecular biologist and regularly work with AIDS patients in a clinical lab with close communication with their treating doctors. I am very sorry, but HIV causes AIDS, there is no scientific evidence denying this, on the contrary, there are tons of evidence supporting it. We now know minute details about HIV's pathogenesis and molecular biology that were ignored more than a decade before when very few "dissident scientists" still insisted in, what was even at that time, a fringe posture denying AIDS was caused by HIV. I know this is not the central issue of the article, but since this was discussed and it is a posture that has very serious implications, as it had in South Africa some years ago in Thabo Mbeki's presidency, I felt obliged to comment.

John Doe
james rico6 years ago

this is for those all too trusting and too lazy to research. the top gay leaders are paid off with all kinds of perks and money by the drug makers to go along with this hoax they ingno natural remidys and push the drugs. aids patients die of liver failure from being on these drugs for so long.peoples immune systems are under constant attack fron vaccines high animal diets lots of sugar drugs legal and illegal and now genetic modified crops. so what do the doctors do just give more new toxic drugs.its caused by the things i just mentioned . remove those things learn how to build your body up naturaly seek out a holistic doctor if you need help. those same aids doctors are the same ones that give hospital patients white bread cake jello meat and MAC DONALDS food if you read this but can not understand this then you are beyond hope you are a sheep.lots of people that had aids are cured because they went the natural route not the medical drug way but the crooked media blacks that out

Carol Smith
Carol Smith6 years ago

Definitely AIDS still sits real, and no hoax at all. Though some may still find it incredible. But the TRUTH can be incredible and beyond belief, and still sit absolutely verified fact. Suggest someone also pick up and check into San Fancisco politics for Councilman(?) George Takei, formerly Sulu on Classic "Star Trek" series. If still doing private lecture gambit, suggest he be given a laptop access also, if not there yet. And cut into these Care2 reports about all concerns in it. Definitely all out over LGBT rights, as far as I know. And possibly already in this site? No clue, but should be checked into.

William Y.
William Y6 years ago

John D. says "the test is phoney just as the disease is."

Tell that to someone with full-blown aids.

Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

John D. thinks aids is a hoax? Wow. Where does he live, under a rock?

Rosemary G.
Rosemary Graf6 years ago

Even some comments show how important true facts are needed for all.

Rosemary G.
Rosemary Graf6 years ago

We need work on keeping HIV down and maybe even gone forever. We all must supply the info on AIDS to everyone.

Sergio B.
Sergio B6 years ago

Ok... time out!!!! What in the world does HIV as do to with sex?!?

Hope S.
Hope S6 years ago

Going back to the dark ages fast. The fact is that equal protection under the law is of the utmost importance. Criminalizing LGBTs will not stop people from being who they are and will not stop the spread of aids.
Knowledge of how to protect themselves from STDs should be promoted. Hopefully a cure or vacine will be found soon. What is this but another distraction coming from the Republicans.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

Great article.