Gay Africa News & Reports (All Africa) 2008-09

Useful websites for LGBT Africa:

(1) Behind the Mask
(2) More All Africa News

Africa is Dying from AIDS (1998 BBC)

New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books review: Gay City News

1 Gay Africans and Arabs come out online 2/08

1a Eighteen men arrested on charges related to sexual orientation 2/08

2 African lesbian conference demands equal rights 2/08

3 Lesbians rise against discrimination 3/08

4 Website celebrates Africa’s gay heroes 4/08

5 Homophobia Continues to Hamper HIV Efforts Globally 5/08

6 Angola: Invisible and vulnerable Gays 6/08

7 Foreign Office issues advice to Pride travellers 7/08

8 Book review: How solutions lie in The Wisdom of Whores 7/08

9 Biographie Of Work On Margin Groups 9/08

10 Droits Humains Et Oreintation Sexuella En Afrique 9/08

11 Worry at Angola rights ban threat 10/08 non-gay background story

12 HIV-Positive People Face Resistance to Second-Line Antiretrovirals 11/08

13 LGBT Africans demand action on AIDS pandemic 12/08

14 African gays unite to demand AIDS treatment 12/08

15 Politics and AIDS in Africa 1/09

16 Lawyers and Activists Attend Groundbreaking Meeting 2/09

17 Lawyers from across Africa gather to discuss LGBT rights 2/09

18 Battle to Halt Graft Scourge in Africa Ebbs 6/09

19 LGBT Rights Movement: Progress and Visibility Breed Backlash 6/09

20 Homophobia blamed for high levels of HIV in African gay men 7/09

21 Aids: Role of Gay Men in Spreading Virus Is Ignored in Africa, Study Finds 7/09

22 Men who have sex with men and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa 7/09

23 Haute Haiku from Kenya 8/09

24 Doctor practices what his faith preaches 9/09 (non-gay background story)

25 MSM: A neglected HIV risk population in Africa 10/09

26 New Coalition To Address MSM Issues In Africa 10/09

27 One of Africa’s taboos 10/09

28 Securing the Voice of African Men who have sex with men 11/09

29 Got Lube? 12/09

30 United Nations: Landmark Meeting Denounces Rights Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity 12/09

February 18, 2008 – Reuters

Gay Africans and Arabs come out online

by Andrew Heavens
Khartoum (Reuters) – When Ali started blogging that he was Sudanese and gay, he did not realize he was joining a band of African and Middle Eastern gays and lesbians who, in the face of hostility and repression, have come out online. But within days the messages started coming in to "Keep up the good work," wrote Dubai-based Weblogger ‘Gay by nature’. "Be proud and blog the way you like," wrote Kuwait’s gayboyweekly. Close behind came comments, posts and links purporting to be from almost half the countries in the Arab League, including Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain and Morocco.

Ali, who lists his home town as Khartoum but lives in Qatar, had plugged into a small, self-supporting network of people who have launched Web sites about their sexuality, while keeping their full identity secret. Caution is crucial – homosexual acts are illegal in most countries in Africa and the Middle East, with penalties ranging from long-term imprisonment to execution. "The whole idea started as a diary. I wanted to write what’s on my mind and mainly about homosexuality," he told Reuters in an e-mail. "To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect this much response."

In the current climate, bloggers say they are achieving a lot just by stating their nationality and sexual orientation. "If you haven’t heard or seen any gays in Sudan then allow me to tell you ‘You Don’t live In The Real World then,’" Ali wrote in a message to other Sudanese bloggers. "I’m Sudanese and Proud Gay Also." His feelings were echoed in a mini-manifesto at the start of the blog "Rants and raves of a Kenyan gay man" that stated: "The Kenyan gay man is a myth and you may never meet one in your lifetime. However, I and many others like me do exist; just not openly. This blog was created to allow access to the psyche of me, who represents the thousands of us who are unrepresented."

News and Abuse
That limited form of coming out has earned the bloggers abuse or criticism via their blogs’ comment pages or e-mails. "Faggot queen," wrote a commentator called ‘blake’ on Kenya’s ‘Rants and raves’. "I will put my loathing for you faggots aside momentarily, due to the suffering caused by the political situation," referring to the country’s post-election violence. Some are more measured: "The fact that you are a gay Sudanese and proudly posting about it in itself is just not natural," a reader called ‘sudani’ posted on Ali’s blog. Some of the bloggers use the diary-style format to share the ups and downs of gay life — the dilemma of whether to come out to friends and relatives, the risks of meeting in known gay bars, or, according to blogger "…and then God created Men!" the joys of the Egyptian resort town Sharm el-Sheikh.

Others have turned their blogs into news outlets, focusing on reports of persecution in their region and beyond. The blog GayUganda reported on the arrests of gay men in Senegal in February. A month earlier, Blackgayarab posted video footage of alleged police harassment in Iraq. Kenya’s "Rants and Raves" reported that gay people were targets in the country’s election violence, while blogger Gukira focused on claims that boys had been raped during riots. Afriboy organized an auction of his erotic art to raise funds "to help my community in Kenya". There was also widespread debate on the comments made by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last September about homosexuals in his country.

The total number of gay bloggers in the region is still relatively small, say the few Web sites that monitor the scene. "It is the rare soul who is willing to go up against such blind and violent ignorance and advocate for gay rights and respect," said Richard Ammon of which tracks gay news and Web sites throughout the world.

"There are a number of people from the community who are blogging both from Africa and the diaspora but it is still quite sporadic," said Nigerian blogger Sokari Ekine who keeps a directory of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender blogs on her own Web site Black Looks.

Ways to Meet
The overall coverage may be erratic, but pockets of gay blogging activity are starting to emerge. There are blogs bridging the Arabic-speaking world from Morocco in the west to the United Arab Emirates in the east. There is a self-sustaining circle of gay bloggers in Kenya and Uganda together with a handful of sites put up by gay Nigerians. And then there is South Africa, where the constitutional recognition of gay rights has encouraged many bloggers to come wholly into the open. "I don’t preserve my anonymity at all. I am embracing our constitution which gives us the right to freedom of speech … There is nothing wrong that I am doing," said Matuba Mahlatjie of the blog My Haven.

Beyond the blogging scene, the Internet’s chat rooms and community sites have also become one of the safest ways for gay Africans and Arabs to meet, away from the gaze of a hostile society. "That is what I did at first, I mean, I looked around for others until I found others," said Gug, the writer behind the blog GayUganda. "Oh yes, I do love the Internet, and I guess it is a tool that has made us gay Ugandans and Africans get out of our villages and realize that the parish priest’s homophobia is not universal opinion. Surprise, surprise!"

(Editing by Andrew Dobbie and Sara Ledwith)

February 2008 – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Eighteen men arrested on charges related to sexual orientation

Africa – Eighteen men arrested on charges related to sexual orientation in Bauchi state, Nigeria faced an adjournment today, as the government continued to stall given the weakness of their case and lack of evidence, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). The next hearing will be held on March 24, 2007. The men, all between the ages of 18 and 21, were arrested on August 5, 2007, at a party at Benco Hotel along Tafawa Balewa Road by the Hisbah, the Islamic anti-vice squad. According to the charge sheet, at the time of arrest "the suspects were all dressed in female attire organizing a gay wedding which contravenes section 372 subsection 2(e) of the Islamic Sharia penal code." The men deny that they were dressed in female clothing or that they were organizing or attending a gay wedding. They argue that the event was a combination birthday/graduation party for a local man (who was not present at the time of the raid and has not been arrested) and the celebration of the marriage of his sister. Currently released on bail, the men have spent a total of 19 days in detention. The men were beaten, caned, and cursed by their jailors and court officers.

IGLHRC Senior Regional Specialist for Africa Cary Alan Johnson was in northern Nigeria last week to meet with the men and their defense attorneys prior to the hearing. According to Johnson, the arrest and prosecution of the Bauchi 18 shows just how much official discrimination LGBT people in Nigeria face and how the government targets sexual minorities.

"These men are being railroaded by the authorities," said Johnson. "Contradicting their own statements, the police first said that the men were all dressed in women’s clothing, then that articles of female clothing and cosmetics were found in their belongings, which somehow proves that they were engaging in same sex marriage and homosexuality. The rhetoric of the police and court authorities are confusing, at best, and attempt to incite the public against the young men by conflating the concepts of ‘homosexuality,’ ‘cross-dressing’ and ‘gay marriage’."

The arrest maybe part of the state government’s campaign to reintroduce a remarkably dangerous anti-homosexuality bill. Last year, the Nigerian National Assembly debated the "Bill for an Act to make provisions for the prohibition of sexual relationship between persons of the same-sex, celebration of marriage by them and for other matters connected herewith," commonly referred to as the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006. The bill criminalizes same-sex marriage as well as the "registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations by whatever name they are called" and any "publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise." Also, under Article 7 of the bill, "any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same-sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment."

The bill had massive public support and quickly became a litmus test for the promotion of conservative religious values in Nigeria. Politicians clamored to support it. On the other side, a coalition of local organizations, including The Independent Project, the House of Rainbow (MCC-Nigeria), Global Rights Nigeria, and International Centre for Sexual Rights and Education (INCRESE), came together to organize local opposition to the bill. After effective advocacy by the consortium of local, national and international partners, the Assembly failed to bring the bill for a final vote and with the dissolution of the legislature it died, pending potential reintroduction.

Even though it did not pass, the bill has served as an incitement to violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals, and more generally, toward individuals whose behaviors do not fit within typical sexual or gender norms. The Sunday Sun weekly newspaper reported the expulsion of 15 "homosexual suspects" from the Nigerian Defense Academy in Kaduna, citing the anti-gay position of the government to justify its action.

TIP is providing support and advocacy strategy for the Bauchi 18, which includes material support , observation and advocacy at all public hearings and work with the media. The men are being defended by a legal team that is headed by Ralf Monye, an experienced human rights attorney and a member of the Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP), and Rommy Mom of Lawyers’ Alert. LEDAP and Lawyers’ Alert are two Nigerian legal support organizations.

There are five charges currently leveled against the men under articles 125, 127, 128, 368 and 372 of the Penal Code:

  • Membership in an Unlawful Society
  • Indecent Act
  • Idle Person
  • Criminal Conspiracy
  • Vagabondage, which includes a prohibition on cross-dressing

    Penalties for these crimes could amount to up to ten years imprisonment and more than 100 lashes. The more serious charge of sodomy, which carries the death penalty, could be instituted at any time.

Parents and relatives of the young men have not been sympathetic to their plight, owing to the cultural and religious nature of the offences. The father of one of the young men stated, for instance, "I feel ashamed to have sired such a disgrace to my family. May Allah pass judgment on him in addition to the judgment of the Shari ‘a Court." Asked whether he would appear in court he answered in the negative. His statements are typical of those of other relatives.

The extreme homophobia exhibited in this very conservative area of the country has put the men and their advocates at grave risk. Messages of hate and violent protest have been directed at the lawyers and the young men. At the first hearing, before Alkali (Judge) Malam Kanimi Aboubacar in the Tunda Al Khali Area court, tear gas and bullets shot into the air were used to disperse a crowd intent on meting out mob justice against the men and their lawyers. The Nigerian official news agency, NAN, reported that a prison official had been injured when a mob also tried to attack the men in Bauchi prison. Owing to this serious risk to life and bodily harm, the court now sits at 2 p.m., rather than the usual time of 9 a.m., to avoid protest. This strategy may not work for long, given the increasing hatred directed at the 18 men and their legal team. Even the judge and court officials appear convinced of the culpability of the accused, consistently referring to them as "Yan Daudu"-a Hausa term that is often derogatorily used to refer to any male who publicly exhibits gender non-conforming behavior. Under these circumstances, there is serious doubt as to whether the men can get a fair trial.

27th February 2008 – PinkNews

African lesbian conference demands equal rights

by staff writer
Lesbians from across Africa have held a conference in Mozambique to highlight the homophobia and prejudice they face across the continent. Most nations in Africa criminalise same-sex relationships and in some countries gay people can be put to death. The Coalition of African Lesbians conference was attended by more than 100 delegates.

Women from 14 African countries gathered in Namibia’s capital Windhoek in August 2004 to develop the Coalition of African Lesbians. Lesbian organisations and a number of individual women from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia are members of the organisation. "Our main goal is that lesbian and homosexuality can no longer be seen as a criminal offence," the group’s director and conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi told Reuters. "You should not be arrested and charged for how you use your own body."

The coalition lobbies for political, legal social, sexual, cultural and economic rights of African lesbians by engaging strategically with African and international structures and allies and to eradicate stigma and discrimination against lesbians. South Africa, one of the few countries on the continent where gay men and lesbians are allowed to marry and legally protected from discrimination, has been rocked by several murders of prominent lesbian activists.

Sizakele Sigasa, 34, an activist for HIV/AIDS and LGBT rights, and Salome Masooa, 24, were discovered dead at field in Soweto, Johannesburg, on July 8th. They had both been shot and, it is suspected, raped. On 22nd July Thokozane Qwabe, 23, was found in a field in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal with multiple head wounds. She was naked and it is thought she was also raped.

March 31, 2008 – Africa Today

Lesbians rise against discrimination

by Bunmi Akpata-Ohohe
The Coalition of African Lesbians from across the continent has, at an extraordinary meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, called on African governments to confront discrimination against homosexuals across the continent and to stop treating them like criminals. Conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi, told the forum that action was needed on growing homophobia that, she claimed was widespread in Africa and which violates individual’s human rights. Scores of traditional African societies deem same-sex relationship as detestable and campaigners accuse some African governments of state-sponsored discrimination and persecution.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Association, homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries, and legal or unmentioned in the statute book in at least 13. In Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigerian states, homosexuality may be punished by death. In Uganda, ‘offenders’ may receive life imprisonment, and in countries including Gambia, Kenya and Tanzania, homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in jail. In contrast South Africa has the most liberal attitude enshrined in its constitution banning discrimination against gays and lesbians, although discrimination is still alive and kicking in the country too.

April 21, 2008 – PinkNews

Website celebrates Africa’s gay heroes

by Staff Writer,
A Supreme Court judge, an HIV treatment campaigner and an anti-apartheid activist all feature on a new website highlighting African heroes. All three are from South Africa. The website,, was created by Kadija Traoré Bush, who is of is Malian and Beninoise heritage. She wants to add more African lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) biographies to the site, and is asking people to submit entries. "Gay Africans make up a part of the landscape of the continent," she said.
Any member of the gay community who has achieved something of merit deserves a place on our site. We welcome the submission of their biographies."

Simon Nkoli, the South African gay rights and anti-apartheid activist, Zachie Achmat, the HIV treatment campaigner and Edwin Cameron, the openly gay and HIV-positive South African Supreme Court judge are the first three entries. The new website is being supported by gay human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! "The first three LGBT entries are all South Africans," he said. "There are many other heroic LGBT campaigners in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya and elsewhere. I hope that people who know these courageous, inspiring individuals will add their biographies to the AfricanSuccess website in the coming weeks and months. This is, in part, a user-generated website, a bit like Wikipedia. It depends on public contributions to expand its data base."

The website organisers are keen to debunk the often negative public image of Africa. " wants to get people to look at Africa in a different and positive way," said Kadija Traoré Bush. "We want to inspire the young, give hope and ambition to Africans everywhere, and to change the way the world sees Africa. Our aim is to create a website that will inspire a continent. If we can show the world where Africans are successful, we can change the way in which we are perceived. It is an interactive community website, which encourages the people who visit the website to add the names and biographies of people that they know and consider worthy of being included. The site is free access and it is free to add names, biographies and other historical information. We hope that people from all countries and all walks of life are going to put up the biographies of people they feel proud of, so we can offer role models for today’s children and tomorrow’s leaders."

29 May 2008 – The Global Forum on HIV and AIDS

Homophobia Continues to Hamper HIV Efforts Globally

Mexico City/Geneva – The International AIDS Society (IAS) today expressed its deep concern about continuing inflammatory and homophobic statements by political leaders in Uganda , Poland , and most recently by the President of The Gambia, and urged national and international leaders to reject homophobia and to take affirmative steps to reduce its impact on HIV. One of the many lessons learned in the IAS’ more than 20 years of leadership in HIV/AIDS, is that well-designed and appropriately targeted programs, implemented with the support of public health and political leadership, can effectively reduce HIV transmission in communities most at risk for HIV, including gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

A report issued at the end of 2007, led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US , provides solid evidence that HIV among MSM continues to be widespread, and in many cases, is exacerbated by stigma, criminalization and the lack of appropriate services. The study indicates that, even in countries with low HIV prevalence in the general population, the epidemic among MSM is raging. According to UNAIDS, fewer than one in 20 MSM around the world has access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care – and even fewer in low-income settings. Compared to the HIV testing rates of 63-85 percent seen among MSM in Australia, Europe, and North America, rates among MSM in much of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe are often under 20 percent.

As it has been demonstrated in many different countries, reducing the social exclusion of gay and MSM communities through the promotion and protection of their human rights (including sexual rights and the right to health) is not only consistent with, but a prerequisite to, good public health. Once discriminatory policies are abolished and stigma and discrimination are confronted, country-based programs can be put in place to encourage gay men and MSM to stay free of HIV-infection, thus supporting national goals of reducing HIV burden. However, efforts to replicate these successful strategies in more countries are hampered by recent homophobic statements made by political leaders from Uganda , Poland and The Gambia. Comments from these leaders, and other politicians who call for the arrest, detention, and even killing of homosexuals, are reprehensible.

In 2008, despite the accumulation of more than a quarter of a century of knowledge of successful HIV interventions, homophobia and the criminalization of homosexuality continue to be significant obstacles to the scale up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Though countries such as Cape Verde and South Africa have repealed their sodomy laws, and government officials in Kenya, Malawi, and Mauritius have begun discussions about the harmfulness of such laws, a resurgence of intolerance and homophobia, coupled with lack of action to repeal laws that violate the human rights of same sex practicing men and women, is posing a grave threat to the AIDS response in many countries. Despite its much heralded success in promoting a public health response to HIV, Uganda continues to cling to a colonial-era sodomy law that punishes homosexual conduct with life imprisonment. And, Uganda is by no means the exception. Worldwide, more than 85 countries criminalize consensual homosexual conduct. Such laws give governments a pretext to invade people’s private lives and deny them essential human rights: to live in peace and in health.

The XVII International AIDS Conference, to be held in Mexico City from 3-8 August 2008 (, will highlight successful work with MSM in several Latin American countries. The experience from Latin America, as well as from other parts of the world, can provide invaluable guidance to leaders from other middle- and low-income countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe . The very high proportion of MSM in Latin America who, over the past 25 years, became infected with HIV, developed AIDS and later died can only be described as catastrophic. But, in the past decade, in a growing number of countries throughout the region, there have been positive responses that continue to serve as shining examples to the rest of the world. If national and world leaders are serious about curbing the epidemic, programmes that bridge across sexual orientation, that protect public health, and transform stereotypes and prejudices must be a first line priority.

"Homophobia – whether propagated by government leaders, enforced by outdated laws, or perpetuated through stigma and discrimination – continues to fuel this epidemic, and should therefore be the number one enemy of those who are serious about ending this global tragedy," said Dr. Pedro Cahn, IAS President, AIDS 2008 Co-Chair and President of Fundación Huésped in Buenos Aires, Argentina. With an international membership of more than 10,000, the International AIDS Society is the world’s leading independent association of HIV professionals.

19 June 2008 – Reuters

Angola: Invisible and vulnerable Gays

Luanda, Angola – It was a wedding that pulled out all the stops, including a party at the Marine Club on the island of Luanda and a five-star nuptial night at the Hotel Presidente Meridien. The ceremony didn’t go unnoticed by Angola’s newspapers. "Shameless," screamed the cover of one of the country’s weekly news magazines. "Abominable," read the headline of another. Angolan couple, Bruna and Chano paid a high price for making their homosexual relationship public. The two young men met when they were both living in the Luanda neighbourhood of Bês. After seeing each other for three and a half years, they decided to hold a ceremony to make their relationship feel official, although doing so legally was not an option.

On May 6, 2005, 21-year-old Aleksander Gregório (Chano), and 23-year-old Bruno*, better known as Bruna, signed a letter of commitment in the presence of a retired notary. All aspects of the ceremony were discussed in minute detail in newspapers and café conversation: the fact that Bruna wore a wedding dress, the party’s guest list and, above all, the couple’s sexuality. Newspapers used terms such as "shameless" to describe the young men’s relationship. Despite the attacks, Chano and Bruna held out and remain together, five years after beginning their relationship.

The love that dares not say its name
Data from an epidemiological study carried out in 2007 by the National Institute for the Fight Against AIDS (INLS) showed that five percent of all HIV infections in Angola were among men who had sex with men (MSM). These numbers, however, do not make the subject any less taboo.
According to Américo Kwanonoka, an anthropologist, "Angolan society is not yet prepared to accept homosexuals." The local culture, which is influenced by Christianity, calls for the perpetuation and expansion of the family. Homosexuality is therefore viewed as an affront to the laws of nature, said Kwanonoka. Jane Dias, 35, who was born João Dias, has personally felt the effects of such intolerance.

"I’ve had rocks thrown at me in the street. I used to think I was the only transvestite in Viana [a neighborhood of Luanda]," she told IRIN/PlusNews. Edna, 21, who was born Edson*, dropped out of school in 8th grade because she suffered so much persecution from her classmates. Not surprisingly, few individuals in Angola are prepared to risk being open about their homosexuality. "Many of those who cuss and throw stones at us on the street are the same ones who come knocking at our door at night," revealed Dias. Social psychologist Carlinhos Zassala explained that many Angolan gays use marriage as a way of avoiding stigma, but once married, continue to have occasional sex with other men. In many cases, the casual sex does not involve the use of condoms. In Angola, a commonly-held assumption that only men with feminine mannerisms are homosexual means that many who have sex with other men do not self-identify as gay, pointed out Roberto Campos, an official with UNAIDS. "If the person fails to recognise himself as such, the message of safe sex doesn’t reach him. The fact is that unprotected anal sex presents a high virus transmission risk." The men interviewed by IRIN/PlusNews confirmed that they had repeatedly exposed themselves to risk.

Edna said she did not like to use condoms because she was allergic to the lubricating oil. She admitted to having sexual relations without a condom with her boyfriend, who is married and the father of two children. According to Edna, her boyfriend has tested negative for HIV. She herself tested after becoming convinced she was infected. "Four months ago, I was feeling weak and nauseated, so I decided to take the test. The result came back negative, but they asked me to take it again in three months," she said.

Invisible population
Because they are an invisible population, gays are ignored in government AIDS policies, such as the 2007-2010 National Strategic Plan for the Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV and AIDS.
A 2007 study carried out by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission called "Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa," found that gays throughout the continent were excluded from HIV/AIDS programmes. The "silence regarding HIV infection among homosexuals" meant that messages about safe sex were exclusively tailored to heterosexuals, leaving the gay population neither informed nor protected.

The lack of information also creates problems at health facilities. Esmeralda, 29, who was born Pedro*, said that when she went to the Military Hospital in Luanda to take an HIV test, the nurse told her she didn’t need to test, because it was certain she was already infected. All of the men interviewed by IRIN/PlusNews expressed their wish to access HIV and AIDS services at a facility tailored to their specific needs. "I would like for us to have special attention. Many organisations have already made promises, but to this day none of them have been put into practice," Edna said.

Political change
In 2006, the non-governmental organisation Acção Humana (Human Action) tried to develop a prevention programme for gay men. The idea was to encourage the use of condoms, combat discrimination and advocate for human rights.
"We wanted a project implemented by gays themselves as educating peers who would get in contact with other gay people at night clubs, bars and beaches," explained Acção Humana Coordinator, Pombal Maria. The organisation managed to recruit 14 men who were given preliminary training, but the initiative lost steam due to a lack of resources. In 2007, when the NGO presented a proposal for a similar programme to donors, they rejected it on the basis that there were not enough homosexuals in Angola to justify the project.

One positive development for Angola’s homosexual population has been the launch of a study this month that will be conducted by the INLS, in partnership with the United States Centres for Disease Control. The aim is to identify the habits and behaviours of this group, including their risks and vulnerability with regards to HIV.

"This demonstrates an important political change. Before, gays were not a priority issue. Now they have stopped being invisible and have been included in discussions on public health and the HIV epidemic," said UNAIDS’ Campos.

*Last name withheld at the request of interviewee ms/ks

July 15, 2008 – PinkNews

Foreign Office issues advice to Pride travellers

by Staff Writer,
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued advice for LGBT people travelling to gay Pride events. Holland, Denmark, and South Africa are holding major gay Pride marches later this summer, and Stockholm is hosting EuroPride. The FCO is urging potential travellers to look at their website for safety advice.

"You can cut down on avoidable problems if you prepare well and research your destination before you leave the UK," spokesman Steve Jewitt Fleet said. "This year, hundreds of Brits will be travelling to global gay Pride events. Attitudes towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travellers can differ widely around the world and from those in the UK. If you’re planning to join the party at one of the upcoming Pride events, check out the FCO’s dedicated advice for LBGT travellers, which can be found on our website. You should also visit the FCO’s country-specific travel advice pages before you leave, so that you can familiarise yourself with local laws and customs of your destination.!

Among the gay-specific advice from the FCO:

a) Be aware of the possibility of crime – criminals have been known to exploit the generally open and relaxed nature of gay ‘neighbourhoods’ and beaches.

b) Check out your accommodation – many hotels now actively welcome same-sex couples, but check before you go and make reservations in advance to avoid difficulties when you arrive.

c) The legal age of consent varies from country to country. You should check individual ages of consent with the embassy of your destination country before you leave the UK.

d) Be aware that in some areas within the country you are visiting, open expressions of sexuality might be frowned upon.

e) Think about sexual health before you go – many sexual health products are not as readily available or of the same quality abroad as they are in the UK.

The Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy, has condemned the violence at Gay Pride events on his blog. "I was very upset to hear the reports of violence at the Pride parades in Prague, Riga and Sofia in the last few weeks, and also very disappointed that pressure from various sources meant the Pride parade in Moldova scheduled for May did not take place," he wrote. This was in marked contrast to the peaceful Pride held for the first time ever in Delhi on Sunday 29 June."

Despite the 150 strong police presence at Pride in Sofia, Bulgaria, more than 60 skinheads and rightwing nationalists were arrested and a homophobic mob threw stones and petrol bombs. "The FCO is committed to promoting equality and ending the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world and we’ve developed a programme of skills and information for embassies and diplomats to help achieve this," wrote Mr Murphy.

In May the FCO issued an ‘LGBT Toolkit’ to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts. The kit contains information for other countries on the official British policy on gay rights and instructions on how to "provide added value to equality and non discrimination work." The violence and discrimination shown towards LGBT people abroad is one of the reasons why the government is under pressure over gay asylum. There are several recent examples of the Home Office refusing asylum to gay people whose home countries criminalise or repress homosexuality.

July 31, 2008 –

Book review: How solutions lie in The Wisdom of Whores

‘The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS.’
by Elizabeth Pisani. Viking Canada. $23.

by Greg Beneteau
Elizabeth Pisani is taking the AIDS industry to task in print. After nearly a decade of tracking HIV-infection patterns among high-risk groups in Asia, Elizabeth Pisani has concluded that there’s a worldwide shortage of frank discussion about HIV risk factors. People, she says, don’t talk openly about "sex and drugs and all the other daft things you do when you’re thinking with your dick, or female equivalent."
The Wisdom of Whores describes in almost comic detail how the US government doles out billions of dollars to fund abstinence before marriage programs that don’t work and to "eradicate prostitution" in countries where there are few alternatives. This approach is tainted by religious ideology — the kind of bible-thumping that paints AIDS as an angry and vengeful God’s punishment of gays. According to Pisani political correctness, human rights and money — especially money — also conspire to distract attention from the realities of the world AIDS crisis.

"It’s recognized that there’s an institutional investment in making HIV absolutely everybody’s problem, in making it a development issue and a gender inequality issue and in mounting an expansive multisectoral response and all of that bollocks," Pisani explains. "But while we’re doing that we’re refocusing prevention away from what works." A former Asian correspondent for Reuters, Pisani stumbled into the world of epidemiology after returning to school in the UK in the mid 1990s. With a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology she joined the newly formed United Nations umbrella group UNAIDS in 1996 and helped to sound the alarm about the rapidly growing numbers of HIV cases. She relates with frustration how world leaders are afraid to confront evidence that intergenerational and extramarital sex — sex that lies outside the bounds of polite conversation — fuel HIV transmission in parts of Africa. They prefer, she says, to portray AIDS as an issue of poverty and under-development.

But Uganda and Senegal, despite their socioeconomic challenges, were able to stave off the worst of the HIV epidemic by focusing prevention efforts on sex workers and people having "sex in nets," or with multiple partners. Elsewhere the timidity had disastrous consequences: By the time Pisani penned the first biennial report on AIDS in 1998 one in four adults in some African countries were believed to be infected. "I just reached a pitch of frustration that we could be making so much more difference than we were," she says. The late Republican senator Jesse Helms told the New York Times in 1995 that he wanted to decrease funding for US domestic AIDS programs because the disease was spread by the "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct" of gays. It was then that the "AIDS industry" — Pisani’s term for the many national governments, NGOs, faith groups, pharmaceutical companies and do-gooder rock stars — finally got on board. Helms changed his tune in 2000 when celebrities like Bono and Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, convinced him that HIV brings immeasurable suffering "to infants and children and their families." Helms was one of the driving forces behind the 2003 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a five-year, $15-billion US program to fight the epidemic. (Recently renewed and increased substantially in July 2008.)

PEPFAR did raise the bar for funding HIV programs in developing countries but, Pisani points out, the same people who are silent about HIV as it rampages among gay men, drug users and sex workers in the West are also squeamish about helping gay men, drug users and sex workers in the rest of the world. Faith-based groups are singled out for special treatment under PEPFAR, despite the opposition of many churches to contraception and homosexuality. Only 20 percent of PEPFAR funds goes to prevention efforts and fully a third of that money promotes abstinence — an approach that doesn’t work — as the sole means of prevention. High-risk groups have been entirely overlooked. By law, donor recipients aren’t allowed to take PEPFAR funds if they intend to help sex workers do anything but get out of the business. Brazil, which wants to regulate sex work, walked away from $40 million rather than yield to this demand. And to this day not a cent has gone toward harm-reduction programs for drug users, Pisani notes. There are also those who see PEPFAR as an investment rather than an act of mercy. In the first years of the project huge amounts of cash went toward buying brand name antiretroviral drugs and "Made in America" condoms rather than relying on cheaper, local versions. In Asia, where Pisani started tracking HIV-prevalence rates in 2001, close to 100 million people were being ignored or underserviced. It was her job to figure out in which circles HIV was being spread, mainly through good old-fashioned field surveillance: sample some people and ask them about their behaviours. Pisani found that asking transgendered sex workers about condom negotiation and learning the street value of heroin in Jakarta turned out to be a lot like writing a good news story.

"I never thought I would be an arms-length number cruncher," Pisani says. "I was first and foremost a journalist and that means talking to people." Those people include Fuad, a young Indonesian long-haul truck driver who supplements his meagre income by selling sex to men, as does his girlfriend back home. Pisani spoke with Frankie, a former heroin user from Bali who used to share a single needle among dozens of his fellow inmates in prison. Pisani learned that in Indonesian jails heroin is cheaper than clean needles. We meet Nancy, who is at ease talking about her work as the headmistress of an Indonesian network of MTF transsexual sex workers known as waria. She complains that her young charges have no respect for their elders, brazenly showing off their designer vaginas — bought at sex-change clinics in neighbouring Thailand — to potential clients. Nancy also works for Jakarta’s Department of Social Affairs teaching waria the practical skills they need for career options outside of sex work. But even in the face of high HIV- prevalence rates and a conservative Muslim theology that vilifies sex work and condom use, most waria remain sex workers either because the pay is too good or it’s the only job they’ve ever known. They choose.

"It’s less about the money than about the orgasms," Nancy explains to Pisani. "Let’s face it, we’re all human, we’ve all got to get laid." The book is full of such frank, often funny revelations from ordinary people. Combined with reams of statistical data collected from the red-light districts of Jakarta to the gay discos of Shanghai, Pisani comes to a simple but inescapable conclusion: sometimes people, for survival, fun or a combination of the two, take risks and they need help to do so more safely, not preaching and isolation. But Pisani is not just another angry scientist railing against conservative values. She also tears a strip off liberal activists who have their own grab bag of failed policies, what she calls "the sacred cows of the AIDS industry." Many of the ideas central to prevention today, such as emphasizing peer education, using grassroots non-governmental organizations for outreach and pressing for a strict "voluntary testing only" rule, were borrowed from the playbooks of AIDS activists in gay communities in the ’80s. They were amazingly successful under the repressive conditions they faced but, according to Pisani, many of the underlying assumptions change when you go halfway around the world. Peer education?

Pisani says sex workers and drug users are more often rivals than friends, that small-scale outreach falls apart when your client base is too large or spread over too large an area, and that in some cases mandatory testing can break the wall of shame and stigma when followed up with care and support services. Pisani also unabashedly tears apart any notion that it’s preferable to spend money on universal prevention campaigns rather than target high-risk behaviours. She blames this mentality on the politicization of the issue — the back-and-forth between ideologies that has hindered epidemiologists’ efforts to treat HIV like any other infectious disease. "That’s what it is, first and foremost," she says. "But now we’re in this weird situation where saying ‘HIV is a gay disease’ is stigmatizing to the gay community. So we say something else. Then awareness and condom use during anal sex drops and suddenly, HIV is a gay disease again…. If, in bending over backward to avoid stigmatizing people, you lose the ability to reach them it won’t work." It all sounds rather unkind. Then again public health has always been a rather fascistic discipline, Pisani concedes.

When behaviours prove frustratingly hard to change, sometimes you just need to fall back on the basics: condoms, clean needles and frank discussions about the risk factors for HIV transmission. "Everyone takes risks," she says. "It’s part of the human condition, thank God; how boring would life be if it weren’t? But people choose the risks they’re willing to take based upon a fairly complex cost/benefit model. It’s not perfect but the more information we give them the more sophisticated their analysis will be." Have her experiences made Pisani any more risk-averse? She laughs. "Oh God, no. I’m just as much of a slut as I ever was."

Compaore Cyrille Alexandre, Sociologiste / Consultant
President of « Action Volontaire »

Biographie Of Work On Margin Groups

Sociologist, I’m a consultant. Since 2001, my professional activities are mainly based on research and plea at national and international level to improve programs against HIV/AIDS among vulnerable groups as orphan and vulnerable children, street children, sex workers, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and lesbians. But in national level, the existence of the MSM is denied or ignored. So, I’m the first Consultant in my country who have realised studies on the MSM. In September 2003, I realised an explored study on the MSM as the consultant of Burkina Faso in associated with the Professor Cheick Niang for the program MAP of the World Bank « targeting vulnerable groups in the multi-country HIV/AID program (MAP) for the African region: the case of men who have sex with men» (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Gambia ).

This study revealed that the MSM are highly stigmatised, haven’t access to prevention or treatment of IST/HIV/AIDS and than, very vulnerable to HIV infection. This study also revealed the urgency to improve the access of MSM to prevention messages targeting them, and their access to the non discriminated treatment of STI/HIVI/AIDS. So, with two associations which take care of PLWHIV, we organised the meeting with the MSM to give to them informations on HIV/AIDS, help them to get condoms or HIV testing. In 2005, I collected medical informations about the MSM testing results. On 200 MSM, 19% are infected by HIV more than the prevalence of AIDS at 2% in national level.

I also publish results of studies and do presentations at scientific meeting on MSM, participate to several regional workshops and international conferences on MSM. During this year, I have been a speaker for the Pre-Conference: The Invisible Men: Gay Men and Other MSM in the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic to the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City (1st to 8st August 2008) and the Midday NGO Workshop: Yogyakarta Principles: Human Rights, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation to the 61st Annual DPI/NGO Conference of UNESCO (3st to 5st September 2008 – Paris)

I’m in permanent contact with the MSM and lesbians. I help them to access to prevention and treatment against AIDS, and plea in institutional and political level to improve projects against AIDS for them. Together, we organised meetings to find the way to resolve many problems of health or stigma. I continue to share with them informations on STI/HIV/AIDS and life skills. The association “Action Volontaire” that I’m the President gets expertise in many domains such as the support for the poor peoples, the psychological support to persons living with HIV/AIDS, the reference of the patients to the voluntary counselling of HIV/AIDS testing and to the structures taking care of PLWHIV. However, the interventions relate primarily to the social mobilization of the specific groups (younger, MSM and lesbians, sex workers) for the prevention of STI/HIV/AIDS.

Nowadays, our association’s objective in the domain of fighting against all form of marginalization, is striving to promote the access of MSM to the prevention and treatment of STI/HIV/AIDS.

In this topic, I elaborated three projects: The first is a training project for the MSM leaders on STI/HIV/AIDS, the second to increase the permanent accessibility of MSM to condom protectors at a very low price. The third is a project for several African counties (Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burundi, Cameron and Niger). This project is an analytic study of social, cultural and political representatives of homosexuality in Africa: The African response of the vulnerability of MSM to STI/HIV/AIDS infection. But any project isn’t yet carried out because of lack of financing and institutional partnership. So, we need to establish a partnership with international institutions fighting against AIDS to carry them.

3 September 2008

Droits Humains Et Oreintation Sexuella En Afrique

Cyrille COMPAORE –
Sociologue / Consultant

Président UNESCO –
« Action Volontaire » PARIS

Click Here For Full Presentation

3 October 2008 – BBC News

Worry at Angola rights ban threat

International aid groups have said they are seriously concerned by the threat to ban an Angolan rights organisation. Twenty-two groups are calling for the end to restrictions on the Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy. They have written to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos as well as the UN, African Union and European Union. The Angolan government is alleging that the AJPD’s statutes are illegal and restricted its activities just before the country’s September election. Pressure groups have in recent months criticised the Angolan government for what they say is a pattern of intimidation of human rights groups. In May, the Angolan authorities ordered the United Nations human rights body to close its offices in the capital, Luanda.

The international human rights groups who signed the letter include Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Mozambican League for Human Rights. Local organisations that also added their names included the Centro Nacional de Aconselhamento Angola, Omunga Angola and the Open Society Institute Angola. They say that on 4 September, the day before Angola ‘s landmark elections, AJPD was informed that a court ruling was pending on a case calling for its closure and was given 15 days to respond. The association had not been notified previously of the existence of the case, which dates from 2003. AJPD has appealed against the proposed ban, on the grounds that the claims of illegality are unfounded and that the law on which the complaint is based is itself unconstitutional.

November 07, 2008 –

HIV-Positive People in Cameroon Face Resistance to Second-Line Antiretrovirals

While countries worldwide are scaling up their antiretroviral treatment programs, more people living with HIV/AIDS are expected to develop resistance to their drug regimens and lack access to more expensive alternative therapies, IRIN/PlusNews reports. According to IRIN/PlusNews, although the number of people who have developed resistance to second-line antiretrovirals remains small, "the challenge is trying to keep these numbers down." Many HIV/AIDS experts say that the main cause of drug resistance is poor adherence to treatment regimens.

In Cameroon, IRIN/PlusNews reports that the case of Marie Gisele Tientcheu, an HIV-positive advocate who developed resistance to second-line antiretrovirals and could not access treatment in the country, "has thrown the spotlight" on the problem. Although there are no official statistics on resistance rates in Cameroon, a 2007 study on patients receiving care at a hospital in the capital of Yaounde found that 4.4% of patients were developing resistance after one year of treatment. However, Charles Kouafang, head of the hospital’s AIDS unit, said the rate of resistance had fallen from 2002, when a similar study showed that 16.2% of patients developed resistance after only eight months of treatment. Kouafang said that the 2002 data reflected the high cost of antiretrovirals and that the situation improved after the government introduced no-cost treatment in 2007. However, he said "the fact that cases of resistance still occur is a public health concern." According to IRIN/PlusNews, approximately 55,000 HIV-positive Cameroonians receive antiretroviral treatment, and GTZ — with participation from Cameroon’s Ministry of Health and National AIDS Commission — in August established an awareness campaign encouraging patients to adhere to their drug regimens.

Caroline Kenkem, deputy executive secretary of the Cameroon Network of People Living With HIV, said that given the issue of drug resistance among HIV-positive people living in the country, it is "imperative" that third-line antiretrovirals be distributed. However, Alain Fogue, president of the Cameroon Movement for Advocacy and Access to Treatment, said that it is unlikely to happen. Fogue said, "I don’t think the authorities are planning to provide third-line" antiretroviral in Cameroon, adding, "I don’t even know if they are aware of this situation, because managing the second-line protocol is hard enough." According to IRIN/PlusNews, organizations of HIV-positive people in Cameroon have launched an appeal to the government to address the issue. Fogue said, "We feel there is no real policy on medication or on providing care and support for patients. It feels like we’re trying to get our voices heard, despite many years of fighting and demonstrations for political action" (IRIN/PlusNews, 11/5).

December 5, 2008 – PinkNews

LGBT Africans demand action on AIDS pandemic ahead of international conference

by Staff Writer,
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from more than 25 African countries have demanded an urgent response to the HIV pandemic affecting their communities. They met at a special conference in Dhaka ahead of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA). According to the ICASA organisers, for more than two decades, the African continent has participated in the fight against AIDS and provided potential solutions to the numerous challenges posed by this epidemic.

The conference "brings together international and African experts to evaluate the current state of the HIV and STI epidemics with regard to science, communities, and leadership." Senegal, where the conference is being held, the prevalence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men is 21% versus less than 1% for the total population.

"The deliberate refusal to address the needs of men who have sex with men in Africa or anywhere in the world will never help us end the spread of AIDS," said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the organisers of the pre-conference. "The refusal to treat the health needs of this population blatantly defies the human rights obligations incumbent on states."

Men who have sex with men in Africa are nine times more likely to be HIV positive than their heterosexual counterparts. IGLHRC reports that only seven African countries have included MSM in their national plans for AIDS prevention, and among these countries only South Africa has made the commitment to include women who have sex with women as part of its response to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"The gendered nature of the limited interventions seeking to address LGBTI people’s needs on the African continent aggravates the situation even further," said Fikile Vilakazi, Director of the Coalition of African Lesbians. More than two-thirds of African nations have laws punishing same-sex conduct. Among the LGBT groups backing the call for action are the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), Alternatives-Cameroun, Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) and the African HIV Policy Network.

The Burundi National Assembly voted to amend the country’s penal code last month so that, for the first time, sexual acts between persons of the same sex would be prohibited. The proposed new law, the first to ban gay sex in Burundi, will now be considered in the country’s Senate. Gays and lesbians face three months to two years in jail and a fine.

The criminalisation of homosexuality makes HIV prevention work more difficult according to Jeffrey O,Malley, the director of the United Nations Development Programme on HIV/AIDS. "Until we acknowledge these behaviours and work with people involved with these behaviours, we are not going to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic," he said. "Countries which protect men who have sex with men have double the rate of coverage of HIV prevention services, as much as 60%."

5 December 2008 –

African gays unite to demand AIDS treatment

by staff writer, afrol News
A group of homosexual activist groups from more than 25 African countries has united, demanding an urgent response to the HIV pandemic affecting their communities. In some countries, the HIV prevalence among gays is more than 20 times higher than among the population average.
At a pre-conference held three days before the start of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), delegates voiced concern about various human rights violations experienced by sexual minorities in Africa and the Diaspora. These included socio-political exclusions related to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, access to adequate health services and other related issues.

Men who have sex with men in Africa are nine times more likely to be HIV positive than their heterosexual counterparts, according to updated statistics. In Dakar, Senegal, where the ICASA conference is being held, the prevalence of HIV infection among gay men is 21 percent compared to less than 1 percent for the total population. "The deliberate refusal to address the needs of men who have sex with men in Africa or anywhere in the world will never help us end the spread of AIDS," said Paula Ettelbrick, leader of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), which organised the pre-conference. "The refusal to treat the health needs of this population blatantly defies the human rights obligations incumbent on states," she added.

Despite the theme of this year’s ICASA, "Africa’s Response: Face the facts," there are still few prevention programmes targeting sexual minorities on the African continent. Only seven African countries have included gay men in their national plans for AIDS prevention, and among these countries only South Africa has made the commitment to include women who have sex with women as part of its response to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. According to Fikile Vilakazi, Director of the Coalition of African Lesbians, "the gendered nature of the limited interventions seeking to address [lesbian and gay] people’s needs on the African continent aggravates the situation even further."

More than two-thirds of African nations still explicitly criminalise same-sex conduct. The East African nation of Burundi recently passed a bill that moves the country closer to adopting a new sodomy law. The UNs Human Rights Committee, UNAIDS, the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and other key organisations however have issued clear warnings that laws against homosexuality fuel the spread of HIV. "Same-sex practicing people have always been excluded from major African policy meetings because of homophobia," said Joel Nana, IGLHRC’s Programme Associate for Southern and West Africa. "We are invisible when serious matters such as HIV are concerned," he added.

The workshop participants are to attend the ICASA conference, where they plan to submit their concerns to international donors, national organisations dealing with HIV/AIDS, and African governments, which they say "have thus far failed to respond to the challenges of HIV/AIDS among sexual minorities."

Politics and AIDS in Africa
Research Agendas in Political Science and International Relations

by Catherine Boone and Jake Batsell
Political Science as an academic discipline has been slow to grapple with the enormous implications of the AIDS crisis for much of the developing world. This article argues that important research agendas link AIDS and politics, and that more work in these areas could contribute to the struggle to cope with the pandemic. Research could also yield theoretical advances in the fi eld of political science. Five research agendas for Africa are: variations in state response to the pandemic; the relationship between governments and NGOs; the AIDS challenge to neoliberalism; AIDS and North-South tensions; and connections between AIDS and international security issues.

Read More

February 2009 –

Africa: Lawyers and Activists Attend Groundbreaking Meeting

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Global Rights, Interights and the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists have just concluded a groundbreaking four-day workshop on legal strategies for promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa. The meeting, the first-ever dialog between lawyers who have worked on litigation related to LGBT rights and African LGBT leaders, was held in Cape Town, South Africa and attended by 45 participants from 11 African countries— Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Participants reviewed key pieces of litigation to document lessons learned. These cases included an unsuccessful challenge to Botswana’s sodomy laws in 2003 (Kanane v. Botswana), the prosecutions of 11 gay men in Cameroon in 2006, the arrests of two women in Rwanda on charges related to sexual orientation in 2008, and the ongoing trial of 18 young men in Northern Nigerian on charges of cross-dressing and homosexuality.

A high point of the meeting was the discussion of Ooyo and Mukasa v. Attorney General of Uganda, a case settled in December 2008, in which two transgender activists successfully challenged the unconstitutional invasion of their home and their mistreatment by local police and elected officials. One of the litigants, as well as the lead counsel, key donors, and local organizers from Uganda were present at the meeting.

Lawyers, activist leaders and donors attending the meeting acknowledged the importance of impact litigation for repealing sodomy laws and challenging other discriminatory statutes and policies. Such litigation however needs to be situated within the context of local, national and regional LGBT organizing. Participants discussed the need for security for lawyers defending LGBT clients and causes. Many of the lawyers at the meeting had faced attacks on their reputations, attempts at disbarment, and even physical violence.

Participants ended the meeting with a call to create a multi-faceted LGBT legal fund for Africa and a training and support network for African lawyers working on sexual rights cases.

Afrique : Avocats et Militants LGBT Participent à une Rencontre Avant-Gardiste sur les Stratégies de Recours Juridique
L’international Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Global Rights, Interights et la section kényane de la Commission Internationale des Juristes viennent de clôturer un atelier de 4 jours sur les stratégies de recours juridique pour la promotion et la protection des droits des personnes lesbiennes, gays, bisexuelles et transgenres (LGBT) en Afrique. L’atelier, qui s’est tenu à Cape Town en Afrique du Sud, symbolise le premier dialogue formel entre les militants des droits des personnes LGBT africains et les avocats qui ont eu à ester en justice pour défendre des clients ou la cause LGBT. L’atelier a vu la participation de 45 délégués venus de 11 pays différents – Afrique du Sud, Botswana, Cameroun, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Maroc, Namibie, Nigeria, Ouganda, Zimbabwe.

Les participants ont réexaminé les stratégies, utilisés dans les affaires clés déjà plaidées sur le continent et en ont tirés des leçons pour le futur. Parmi ces affaires, le litige opposant Kanane au gouvernement botswanais, le procès des 11 camerounais arrêtés pour homosexualité en 2006, l’arrestation des deux Rwandaises en 2008 pour des raisons liées à l’homosexualité et le procès actuellement en cours des 18 jeunes Nigérians poursuivis pour travestisme, inertie et homosexualité étaient les plus récurrentes.

L’une des affaires qui a marqué la rencontre est l’affaire Ooyo et Mukasa contre le procureur général de la république de l’Ouganda. Une affaire qui s’est conclue en décembre 2008 par la victoire de deux militants transgenres qui défendaient leurs droits constitutionnels à la protection contre la violation de domicile et les traitements humiliants et dégradants, comme ceux que leur avaient fait subir les officiers de police et autres représentants du gouvernement ougandais. Étaient présents à l’atelier et pendant cet échange, l’un des plaignants, l’un des avocats, l’un des leaders de la communauté LGBT ougandaise, ainsi que l’un des donateurs clés de l’affaire.

Les avocats, les militants et les donateurs présents à la rencontre ont reconnus l’importance des litiges d’impact pour l’abrogation des lois qui condamnent les pratiques homosexuelles, ainsi que de toutes autres lois et règles qui discriminent les personnes LGBT sur la base de leur orientation sexuelle et identité de genre. Ce genre de recours juridique devant se situer dans un contexte local, national et régional. Les participants ont aussi discuté de la nécessité de s’assurer de la sécurité des avocats qui défendent des clients et la cause LGBT : plusieurs avocats présents à la réunion ont plus d’une fois fait face à des attaques physiques et d’autre nature ayant pour but de ternir leur réputation. Les attaques vont souvent jusqu’aux tentatives de bannissement du barreau.

Au sortir de l’atelier, les participants ont revendiqué la création d’un fonds d’aide juridique à multiples facettes pour les personnes LGBT en Afrique ainsi qu’un réseau d’appui et de formation pour les avocats travaillant sur les questions de droits sexuels.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit for more information

February 9, 2009 – PinkNews

Lawyers from across Africa gather to discuss LGBT rights

by Staff Writer,
Gay rights activists and lawyers who have worked on LGBT human rights cases met in South Africa last week.
The four-day workshop on legal strategies for promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Africa was attended by 45 participants from 11 countries— Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Global Rights, Interights and the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists were among those taking part. It was the first meeting between lawyers who have worked on litigation related to LGBT rights and African LGBT leaders. Participants reviewed key pieces of litigation to document lessons learned. These cases included an unsuccessful challenge to Botswana’s sodomy laws in 2003 (Kanane v. Botswana), the prosecutions of 11 gay men in Cameroon in 2006, the arrests of two women in Rwanda on charges related to sexual orientation in 2008, and the ongoing trial of 18 young men in Northern Nigerian on charges of cross-dressing and homosexuality.

A high point of the meeting was the discussion of Ooyo and Mukasa v. Attorney General of Uganda, a case settled in December 2008, in which two transgender activists successfully challenged the unconstitutional invasion of their home and their mistreatment by local police and elected officials. One of the litigants, as well as the lead counsel, key donors, and local organizers from Uganda were present at the meeting. Lawyers, activist leaders and donors attending the meeting acknowledged the importance of impact litigation for repealing sodomy laws and challenging other discriminatory statutes and policies.

Such litigation however needs to be situated within the context of local, national and regional LGBT groups. Participants discussed the need for security for lawyers defending LGBT clients and causes. Many of the lawyers at the meeting had faced attacks on their reputations, attempts at disbarment, and even physical violence. The event concluded with a call to create a multi-faceted LGBT legal fund for Africa and a training and support network for African lawyers working on sexual rights cases.

June 10, 2009 – The New York Times

Battle to Halt Graft Scourge in Africa Ebbs

by Celia W. Dugger
Lusaka, Zambia – The fight against corruption in Africa’s most pivotal nations is faltering as public agencies investigating wrongdoing by powerful politicians have been undermined or disbanded and officials leading the charge have been dismissed, subjected to death threats and driven into exile.
“We are witnessing an era of major backtracking on the anticorruption drive,” said Daniel Kaufmann, an authority on corruption who works at the Brookings Institution. “And one of the most poignant illustrations is the fate of the few anticorruption commissions that have had courageous leadership. They’re either embattled or dead.”

Experts, prosecutors and watchdog groups say they fear that major setbacks to anticorruption efforts in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are weakening the resolve to root out graft, a stubborn scourge that saps money needed to combat poverty and disease in the world’s poorest region. And in Zambia, a change of leadership has stoked fears that the country’s zealous prosecution of corruption is ebbing.

The perils of challenging deeply rooted patterns of corruption have been brought home recently with the suspicious deaths of two anticorruption campaigners. Ernest Manirumva, who worked with a nonprofit group, Olucome, investigating high-level corruption in Burundi, was stabbed to death in the early morning hours of April 9. A bloodstained folder lay empty on his bed. Documents and a computer flash drive were missing, said the president of Olucome, Gabriel Rufyiri. And in the Congo Republic, Bruno Jacquet Ossebi, a journalist who had announced he was joining a lawsuit brought by Transparency International to reclaim the ill-gotten wealth of his country’s president, died of injuries from a fire that raced through his home in the early hours of Jan. 21.

The broader anxieties about Africa’s resolve to combat corruption have emerged from troubled efforts in several countries. In oil-rich Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, where watchdog groups say efforts to combat corruption are backsliding, Nuhu Ribadu, who built a well-trained staff of investigators at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said he fled his homeland into self-imposed exile in England in December. Officials had sent Mr. Ribadu away to a training course a year earlier, soon after his agency charged a wealthy, politically connected former governor with trying to bribe officials on his staff with huge sacks stuffed with $15 million in $100 bills. Mr. Ribadu, who was dismissed from the police force last year, said he had received death threats and was fired upon in September by assailants.

“If you fight corruption, it fights you back,” he said. In South Africa, home to the region’s biggest economy, a new crime unit with less statutory protection from political interference was stripped of the authority to both investigate and prosecute crimes. It will take over from the Scorpions, the prosecuting authority’s elite investigating unit that had achieved high conviction rates and built potent corruption cases against Jacob Zuma, who became president of South Africa in April, and Jackie Selebi, the national police commissioner and an ally of former President Thabo Mbeki. The Scorpions were abolished last year and the country’s chief prosecutor, Vusi Pikoli, who had pushed forward with both cases, was fired. “Even people of good will would be slow to take on people in high places again because history will have told them it comes at a high cost,” said Wim Trengrove, a private lawyer who assisted the state with the prosecution of Mr. Zuma.

And in Kenya, the economic anchor of east Africa, scandals have continued to flourish and anticorruption prosecutions have languished since John Githongo, who was the country’s anticorruption chief, sought safety in self-imposed exile in England in 2005. Aaron Ringera, who apparently advised Mr. Githongo in taped conversations in 2005 not to push for prosecutions of President Mwai Kibaki’s ministers, is the current anticorruption chief. Mr. Ringera said in an e-mail message that Mr. Githongo had twisted advice he offered him “in his own best interests.” In an interview, he said he had recommended prosecuting eight ministers, but had been blocked by either the courts or the attorney general.

The search is on for more effective ways to tackle corruption, including intensified legal efforts to prosecute multinational corporations that pay the bribes and reclaim loot that African political elites have stashed abroad. Transparency International’s suit seeks to force the French justice system to investigate how the leaders of Gabon, the Congo Republic and Equatorial Guinea and their families acquired tens of millions of dollars in assets there. Still others say rich countries and international organizations that provide billions of dollars in aid to African countries each year must more vigorously use their leverage to make sure aid does not fuel corruption.

Based on his finding that more than $1 trillion a year is paid in bribery globally, Mr. Kaufmann, formerly director of global programs at the World Bank Institute, estimates there are tens of billions of dollars of corrupt transactions each year in sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Githongo, who failed in trying to fight corruption from the inside, has returned to Nairobi to start a nonprofit group to mobilize rural people to press politicians to clean up a rotten system. “Going after big fish hasn’t worked,” he said. “The fish will not fry themselves.”

Zambia recently won rare convictions against former military commanders and Regina Chiluba, the wife of its former president, on corruption charges. Frederick Chiluba, president from 1991 to 2001, will himself face a verdict in July on corruption charges. His sumptuous wardrobe — Lanvin suits, silk pajamas and handmade Italian shoes of snakeskin, satin and ostrich — became an emblem of greed in one of the world’s poorest countries. But anticorruption leaders say they sense less commitment to tackle corruption since the election of President Rupiah Banda. “I’m inside,” said Maxwell Nkole, who leads a task force set up to investigate the Chiluba-era abuses. “The tempo, the intensity to tackle corruption is dropping.”

The Banda administration vigorously denies that charge, and says it will prosecute officials who stole $2 million from the Ministry of Health. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation that Zambia is eligible for. On a recent afternoon, ambassadors from rich nations, the United States and Britain among them, mingled at a party on the lawn of Mark Chona, the first chief of the Zambian anticorruption task force. In welcoming them, he issued a sharp warning. “Your money is being stolen,” he said. “Don’t sit silent. You don’t know how much influence you have.”

June 11, 2009 – Human Rights Watch

LGBT Rights Movement: Progress and Visibility Breed Backlash

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights Defenders Need Resources, Broader Support

(New York) – Activists working for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in many countries are still under-resourced, unnecessarily isolated, and vulnerable to violent backlash even after four decades of struggle, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 44-page report, "Together, Apart: Organizing around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Worldwide," demonstrates that many groups defending LGBT rights – especially throughout the global South – still have limited access to funding, and courageously face sometimes-murderous attacks without adequate support from a broader human rights community.

"Dozens of countries have repealed sodomy laws or enshrined equality measures, and that’s the good news as activists celebrate their successes during Gay Pride month," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and the principal author of the report. "But visibility breeds violence, and there is a pressing need for new support and protection."

The report is based on written surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 100 activists working for LGBT rights in five regions: sub-Saharan Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; the Asia and Pacific region; and Latin America and the Caribbean. In each region, the report outlines prevailing patterns of abuse and rights violations; the political and social challenges, and opportunities that activists see ahead; and key strategies these movements are using to achieve social change.

The report shows widely disparate rights situations in different regions. In Latin America, for instance, decades of coalition work between LGBT activists and other social movements – including women’s and mainstream human rights groups – have led to sweeping legal changes, with most sodomy laws in the region repealed and new anti-discrimination protections being debated. Yet repressive laws and pervasive violence based on gender identity and expression often remain unremedied. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the report found, waves of backlash regularly greet the efforts of LGBT activists to make their voices heard, often silencing them with brutal violence. Extremist religious groups – some with support from kindred denominations in North America – actively promote prejudice and hatred.

Key findings of the report include:
* Organizations working on sexual orientation and gender identity still lack resources, as well as adequate support from other human rights movements. Increasing funding for these rights defenders, and building their political alliances, is crucial.
* Defenders of LGBT people’s rights, and of sexual rights in general, routinely face extraordinary levels of violence. In Jamaica, an angry crowd surrounded a church where a gay man’s funeral was being held and beat the mourners. In Kenya, one group told Human Rights Watch matter-of-factly that its members were "attacked by an angry mob who wanted to lynch them and they had to be evacuated under tight security."
* Sexuality has become a dangerous cultural and religious battleground. Increasingly, both politicians and conservative religious leaders manipulate issues of gender and sexuality to win influence or preserve power. They characterize LGBT people as alien to their communities, outsiders whose rights and lives do not matter.
* The need to change laws is still a central issue – but in many different contexts. More than 80 countries still have "sodomy laws" that criminalize consensual, adult same-sex sexual relations. Yet even in countries that have scrapped these provisions, laws on "public scandals," "indecency," "wearing the clothing of the opposite sex," and sex work are still in place, allowing widespread police harassment of transgender people and others. Enshrining equality for lesbian and gay people in South Africa’s constitution produced an example of global importance, for instance. Yet South Africa’s government is still not fully committed to equality at all levels, or capable of curtailing sexual violence.

The report also details creative strategies that activists have used to combat prejudice and promote equality. In India, activists have combined a legal challenge to the sodomy law with a wide-ranging public campaign to change public attitudes. In Brazil, transgender groups have fostered visibility and countered discrimination through simple monthly excursions to public spaces such as shopping malls or beaches. Activists told Human Rights Watch this helps trans people "feel strong in a group and face those spaces they believe are ‘off limits’ for them. And it is also meant to educate the public to see transgender people as citizens …with whom they can share a movie or a game and the beach."

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the historic and galvanizing clashes between LGBT people and the police that many see as marking the beginning of the modern US gay rights movement. Yet the US still has fewer protections for LGBT people’s equality than countries such as Brazil or South Africa.

"As the United States prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its own gay rights movement, this report points to lessons of struggles and successes in other countries that everyone can learn from," said Long. The research and publication of "Together, Apart" were supported by the generosity of the Arcus Foundation, a US-based philanthropic foundation whose mission embraces achieving social justice that is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race.

July 20, 2009 – PinkNews

Homophobia blamed for high levels of HIV in African gay men

by Jessica Geen
Research has suggested that HIV rates for gay men in sub-Saharan Africa are ten times higher than the average rate for the general male population. According to the Oxford University report, published in respected medical journal the Lancet, the high rates are caused by prejudice against people. The report’s authors suggested that this led to isolation and harassment, which in turn results in risky sexual practices.
They said rates of infection were "driven by cultural, religious and political unwillingness to accept [gay men] as equal members of society".

Lead researcher Adrian Smith cited "profound stigma and social hostility at every level of society concerning either same-sex behaviours amongst men, or homosexuality". He told the BBC: "This has the consequence that this group becomes extremely hard to reach." Mr Smith also suggested that gay men were more likely to be involved in other risky practices, such as prostitution, intravenous drug use and having multiple partners.

The United Nations Aids agency estimates that of the 33 million people in the world who are HIV-positive, two-thirds live in sub-Saharan Africa. In May, the Lancet criticised the UK’s policy on HIV over the estimated numbers of individuals unaware they carrying the virus. In an editorial, the journal noted that around 21,000 people are thought to be unaware they are HIV-positive and that an increase in infection rates has been seen in both gay and straight individuals.

It argued that Department of Health recommendations for a stronger public health response have been largely ignored, despite one former senior government health official warning that the problem is an “appalling statistic”, and a “serious epidemiological issue”.

July 21, 2009 – The New York Times

Aids: Role of Gay Men in Spreading Virus Is Ignored in Africa, Study Finds

by DonaldG. McNeil Jr.
The role of gay sex in the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS in Africa has been long ignored, say the authors of a new study in the medical journal Lancet.
While most transmission of the virus in Africa is heterosexual, 19 recent studies of African men who have sex with men show that they have “considerably higher” infection rates than other adult men in their respective countries, said the authors, who were from Oxford University and research institutions in Ghana and Kenya.

These men also have less access to prevention and care; most African countries have allocated no money to gay men, and homosexual sex is illegal in 31 African countries, in four of which men risk the death penalty.

African male sexual networks overlap with male-female ones, the authors found, since many of the men also report recent sex with women or are married. In three genetic studies the authors compared, gay white men in South Africa had a virus from a type common among gay European and American men, while gay black men in Kenya and Senegal had the type circulating in their country’s black populations.

Gay men face ridicule from their families and health care workers and harassment by the police, the study reported. And because African governments and media aimed very little safe-sex information at gay men, false rumors were common — including rumors that gay sex or anal sex were safer than heterosexual sex.

20 July 2009 – The Lancet

Men who have sex with men and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa

by Dr Adrian D Smith MSc a Corresponding AuthorEmail Address, Placide Tapsoba MD b, Norbert Peshu MPH c, Eduard J Sanders PhD c d, Prof Harold W Jaffe MD a
Globally, men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to bear a high burden of HIV infection. In sub-Saharan Africa, same-sex behaviours have been largely neglected by HIV research up to now. The results from recent studies, however, indicate the widespread existence of MSM groups across Africa, and high rates of HIV infection, HIV risk behaviour, and evidence of behavioural links between MSM and heterosexual networks have been reported. Yet most African MSM have no safe access to relevant HIV/AIDS information and services, and many African states have not begun to recognise or address the needs of these men in the context of national HIV/AIDS prevention and control programmes.

The HIV/AIDS community now has considerable challenges in clarifying and addressing the needs of MSM in sub-Saharan Africa; homosexuality is illegal in most countries, and political and social hostility are endemic. An effective response to HIV/AIDS requires improved strategic information about all risk groups, including MSM. The belated response to MSM with HIV infection needs rapid and sustained national and international commitment to the development of appropriate interventions and action to reduce structural and social barriers to make these accessible.

August 17th, 2009 – Global Voices On-Line

Haute Haiku from Kenya

by Rebekah Heacock
Haute Haiku is one of Global Voices’ newest Sub-Saharan African authors. He writes about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) blogosphere in Africa, including bloggers’ thoughts on HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, and how gays and lesbians are treated in East Africa. Haute also blogs about being a gay man in Africa on his personal blog, Single gay life in Kenya.

In many Sub-Saharan African countries, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by sentences ranging from payment of fines to several years or life in prison. According to the International Gay & Human Rights Council more than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts, and across the continent people are subject to both physical attacks and discrimination.

Though life in Kenya is reportedly becoming easier for gay people, there is still legislation in place that says homosexual men (not women) can be sent to prison for up to 14 years. In countries like Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania, laws like these have been in place since colonial times, while in Burundi a ban on homosexuality was only just introduced in April of this year.

Consequently, many gays and lesbians throughout Africa live in fear of having their sexual orientation discovered. A small number make use of blogs to help spread knowledge and understanding of what it means to be gay.

September 21, 2009 – The Los Angeles Times

Doctor practices what his faith preaches

Cedars-Sinai cardiologist Dr. Lawrence Czer makes regular trips to Africa with his Christian church to help the needy by providing free medical care.

by Carla Hall
On his medical missions to Africa, Dr. Lawrence Czer has dealt with poverty, lack of electricity, bad accommodations — and military checkpoints. In Sierra Leone, Czer and his team were sometimes stopped by rifle-toting soldiers who simply wouldn’t let them through.

"They’ll just have you stand there and you’ll see other people going through," Czer said. The medical team refused to give the soldiers any money. All they could do was try to cajole them. "Or shame them," the doctor said. "We tell them, ‘Listen, we’re giving free medical care to your people. Now, what are you doing holding us up from doing that?’ " It worked. For more than a decade, Czer, an otherwise genteel, soft-spoken cardiologist, has been a key part of the medical teams organized and sent by his church, the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica, to some of the poorest, most war-ravaged countries in Africa. The trips, which began with a mission to Gambia in 1998, are now made at least twice a year.

The heart is the doctor’s specialty. Czer, pronounced like "Caesar," is medical director of the heart transplant program at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. But in Africa, he functions more like an overburdened general practitioner, seeing up to 100 people a day with maladies that include broken bones, malaria, parasites, serious burns and high blood pressure. Czer was raised Catholic in the San Fernando Valley and educated by nuns and brothers. As an adult he joined the Protestant evangelical Lighthouse Church, an outpost of the Foursquare denomination. He and his wife were drawn to the church’s search for a "practical Christianity," he said. And that is what motivates him to make the trips to Africa.

"We don’t stay in great hotels. We’re with the people. We don’t exclude anybody. We see the poorest of the poor. We lay hands on people. We touch people. We tell them we love them," he said. "We think that’s what, probably, Jesus would do if he were walking the earth at this point."

In addition to Gambia and Sierra Leone, the church’s medical expeditions have traveled to Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fall mission next month — which Czer will probably not be on — travels back to Gambia. The church’s bigger spring trip is often to Sierra Leone, where medical team members have set up their temporary clinics in several towns. Beyond medical services, the church has provided expertise and raised funds to build schools, churches and water projects.

The medical teams make it a point to revisit communities. "We like to know the people, establish relationships, get to know the country," said Czer, 58, sitting in his small office at Cedars. His desk is stacked with papers. Nearby is a framed photo of his seven children, all wearing airy white. His older children, as well as his wife, Kari, a kindergarten teacher, have at times accompanied him on his trips.

"Lawrence is the most understated guy you will ever meet," said Robert Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician, fellow Lighthouse Church member and medical coordinator of the Africa visits. Czer is the counterpart, for adult patients, to Hamilton and other pediatricians on the trips, where often half those served are children. "He’s so good at African medicine," Hamilton said. "He provides a tremendous ballast for the trips."

The church missions focus on places where medical help is most needed. Hamilton called the needs of post-war Sierra Leone "mind boggling." "When you go to Africa, you kind of grow up in some ways: ‘Oh, this is what the world is like,’ " said Hamilton, 56. But they also specifically choose places where there are Christian churches to help the teams set up, explain the lay of the land and advise on potential dangers.

Many of the people in the countries they visit are Muslims or followers of traditional African religions. That stops the medical missionaries neither from treating them nor from teaching them about Christianity — though not necessarily simultaneously. "What we’re trying to do is demonstrate Christianity," said Czer. "We’re not actively proselytizing. Our job is to bring dignity — and let the local pastor do the rest."

Rob Scribner, the pastor of Czer’s church, generally does not go along on the medical missions but makes trips at other times, during which he preaches to all comers. When he asks people if they want to be prayed for, they often readily agree, no matter their religion, he says. "They have so little, they have nothing. They’re thinking ‘Am I going to eat?’ We’ve been sending rice for years to our churches so we could feed people," Scribner said.

Hamilton estimates that each mission costs about $35,000 in medications. The participants, who volunteer their time, generally pay for their own airfare and lodging. The church picks up the cost of medicines and supplies, holding fundraisers to help. A recently opened thrift store (at 1727 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica) provides some funds as well. As a young couple, Czer and his wife, Kari, who was raised Greek Orthodox, "were seeking a better way to see what God was saying," he said. He tried her religion but "I just could not understand the liturgy," he said.

Now married 30 years, the couple found in the Lighthouse Church more emphasis on reading the Bible and less on the "ritual and the big buildings" of their previous churches, Czer said. He misses some of those rituals. But Czer said of the Lighthouse Church, "For what we were going through at the time, it really addressed our needs." They joined the church more than 20 years ago.

"I wouldn’t be doing this, probably, if it weren’t for reading the Bible and trying to understand what God wants us to do," Czer said of his medical forays to Africa. "I wouldn’t have that depth of understanding."

October 2009 – Consultancy Africa Intelligence

Men who have sex with men: A neglected HIV risk population in Africa

by Marinda Kotzé
Although men who have sex with men (MSM) are generally not considered to be a high HIV infection risk group in Africa, recent studies have shown that this may not be the case. Recent research has revealed alarmingly high HIV prevalence rates amongst MSM in Africa. These findings bring into question the decision made by many HIV & AIDS organisations and African Governments to focus primarily on heterosexual individuals in their HIV & AIDS campaigns, often completely excluding MSM from these initiatives. This CAI brief takes a closer look at the reasons behind the neglect of MSM in HIV & AIDS campaigns in Africa, their vulnerability to HIV infection as well as what can be done to reach this often ignored high risk group.

The neglect of MSM by HIV & AIDS campaigns in Africa
In many Western nations, homosexual men were identified as one of the key risk-groups very early on in the HIV epidemic. Consequently, research and HIV prevention efforts in these countries focussed more specifically on MSM in order to curb the spread of HIV. In Africa, however, HIV amongst the MSM population has gone largely unnoticed due to several factors. Early research on the primary modes of HIV transmission in Africa suggested that men and women were equally vulnerable to HIV infection, and that the virus was mainly transmitted through heterosexual intercourse. As a result, heterosexual couples, sero-discordant couples, people in multiple concurrent sexual partnerships and female commercial sex workers were considered most at risk for contracting HIV. These groups subsequently received more attention from HIV & AIDS research and intervention campaigns (2). Early research studies were unable to find any conclusive evidence to link MSM to the growing HIV infection rate in Africa. It is suspected, however, that this could be due to the fact that homosexuality is largely condemned by most African cultures and religious groups, and even punishable by law in certain African countries, such as Nigeria. Homosexuality is therefore a taboo subject amongst many Africans, which makes it very difficult to make contact with MSM, elicit public debate about the issue and conduct thorough research on MSM in Africa (3).

These attitudes towards homosexuality have caused many MSM to become victims of stigmatisation and discrimination. Fear of possible victimisation has also led to many MSM concealing their sexual orientation. In particular, members of the police service and health care personnel have been guilty of discriminating against and victimising MSM in many parts of Africa, leading to MSM living a secluded lifestyle and even avoiding health care services (4). As a result, many MSM have been unable to access quality health care services such as voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV & AIDS (5). This has not only made MSM more vulnerable to HIV infection but also made it more difficult for researchers to gain access to them and investigate their HIV risk behaviour and prevalence rates. Consequently, due to lack of data, MSM is still not considered to be a priority target group by many HIV & AIDS programme planners and health care officials around the continent.

The HIV epidemic amongst MSM in Africa
Over the past few years, research focusing on MSM and specifically their sexual risk behaviours and HIV prevalence rate has increased remarkably. The knowledge gained from these studies has been very helpful in providing greater insight into the factors that may put MSM at risk for HIV infection and what can be done to address the issue.

Read the entire article here

14 October 2009 – Behind The Mask

New Coalition To Address MSM Issues In Africa

by Simangele Mzizi (BTM Intern)
South Africa – In their effort to step up the fight against the high HIV prevalence amongst men who have sex with other men (MSM) some concerned men have formed a coalition titled African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) aiming to increase visibility of issues affecting MSM in Africa.
Established in March this year, “AMSHeR was formed to strengthen the capacity of national agencies and individuals working to improve legislation and programming related to MSM’s sexual and reproductive health”, said Joel Nana, Executive Officer for AMSHeR.

The coalition consists of 15 organisations from 13 African countries working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, mainstream HIV and human rights organisations that work to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV. “We intend to extend invitations to other countries and organisations to ensure the visibility and representativeness of all aspects of MSM and transgender lives in the continent”, Nana said.

Currently AMSHeR is hosted by OUT LGBT Well-being, a South African LGBT health organisation based in Pretoria. As a regional coalition of MSM and LGBTI led organisations, AMSHeR also aims to advocate for the elimination of discriminatory laws and policies affecting MSM. Nana pointed out that, AMSHeR’s development process has been divided into two phases and the first phase started on 1 October this year and will end on 30 March next year.

“During this period, AMSHeR intends to develop its management mechanisms, establish its administrative systems, acquire a legal identity, develop its strategic plan and strengthen its funding base for the implementation phase or second phase”, said Nana. According to a 2006-2007 HIV and AIDS report by UNAIDS to the UN General Assembly Special Session, MSM are a group that has long been overlooked with no documented evidence to confirm their existence.

Meanwhile studies show that research on MSM in Africa has been limited and largely focused on the heterosexual spread of HIV and as a result leaves MSM highly stigmatised and hard to reach, even though this population is particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. The executive committee of the coalition includes Samuel Matsikure from the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, Steave Nemande from Alternatives-Cameroun, David Kuria from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Chivuli Ukwimi from Zambia.

21 October 2009 – Alternet

One of Africa’s taboos: MSM Sexual Issues in Sudan

Sarah Wheeler, International HIV/AIDS Alliance
(Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author’s alone.)

Talib Aboi stands in a small courtyard building in Juba, south Sudan. He talks to a group of men about HIV, telling them how to protect themselves by using a condom. He is a courageous, pragmatic man, who is willing to tackle a subject that in Sudan and across Africa is taboo – HIV prevention for men who have sex with men (MSM).

"If we don’t teach about HIV all our other work will mean nothing. For the children who came to adolescence during the war they didn’t become the people expected by the community. They don’t know what it is to be good, what it is to be bad." Aboi is the humanitarian director of Mubadaroon a development organisation, supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. He has been working in development for over ten years.

"People are not coming out about men who have sex with men. We are learning that older people are infecting young boys. We want more information but most people are illiterate so we need materials that they can use. We need to do something specifically for men who have sex with men. There are so many sad stories. When I ask them to share, they shed tears," said Aboi.

Sudan is not the only country in Africa where men who have sex with men face stigma and discrimination. Across Africa homosexuality is illegal but this approach is negatively affecting the approach to tackling HIV in a continent that has the greatest burden of AIDS anywhere in the world. Studies show increasing rates of HIV among men who have sex with men – over 20% in some countries. In coastal Kenya the HIV prevalence rate of men who have sex with men is as high as 43% . The battle to stem the increase in HIV infections among this population is failing.

Homophobia, imprisonment and condemnation, with some African leaders even calling for men who have sex with men to be beheaded, means that the men fear reprisals which stop them from finding out their HIV status and accessing the help they need. Leaders across Africa claim that homosexuality is not within their culture, that it doesn’t exist and where it is seen it’s a result of Western influence.

However in Kenya the Government has recognised the gap in the HIV response for vulnerable groups such as men who have sex with men and included their needs as a priority in the recently developed HIV/AIDS national strategy, allocating funding for appropriate HIV programmes.

The consequence is a series of gross human rights violations and few resources on HIV prevention, treatment and care targeting men who have sex with men and those who have female partners.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In some of the more conservative north African countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Tunisia men who have sex with men HIV prevention activities have been successfully running since 2006.

Alliance’s partners reached more than 17,000 men who have sex with men last year through awareness raising and prevention work. Advocacy initiatives with local and political leaders are conducted and specifically tailored materials have been developed and distributed in French and Arabic. Importantly, there has been an investment in building up the confidence of local groups to work with the men in a collaborative manner.

Alan Brotherton is a Senior Policy Officer at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. "In Africa we see high levels of stigma and discrimination and this means men are not protecting themselves, their partners or their wives. "UNAIDS have acknowledged that urgent works needs to be done to prevent the spread of HIV. There is a clear public health rationale for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men," says Brotherton.

The Global HIV Prevention Working Group has estimated that HIV prevention services reach only 9% of men who have sex with men. Where information was reported access to HIV services for men who have sex with men in Africa are around just 12% compared to 43% in Latin America. "There is a desperate need for national AIDS responses to involve men who have sex with men. Pretending that they don’t exist is not going to resolve the AIDS crisis in Africa," Brotherton said.

November 2009 –

Securing the Voice of African Men who have sex with men (MSM) within HIV&AIDS Development Policy and Programming in Eastern and Southern Africa

View Powerpoint HERE

December 6, 2009 – Positvely Aware

Got Lube? – The slippery slope for African men who don’t

by Jim Pickett
The main draw for me to attend the 5th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Cape Town this past summer was the chance to spread the gospel of rectal microbicides and recruit, recruit, recruit new followers into research and advocacy efforts to make these new prevention tools a reality.

Reminder—microbicides are products currently in development that can be applied vaginally or rectally to protect against HIV transmission. Safe, effective, acceptable, and accessible microbicides would be important additions to the prevention “buffet” for millions of women and men.

Thanks to the fabulous support of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, and in conjuction with the advocacy network I lead—International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA)—we were able to pull together a satellite session at the IAS meeting with the Microbicide Trials Network and a new South African program called Health4Men. Titled “Rectal Microbicide Development—An African Perspective,” we brought together five speakers (researchers and one advocate—moi) to discuss the latest in rectal microbicide science and advocacy, placing a special focus on HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa, including ways to access these populations for health care and HIV prevention studies.

These men will certainly benefit from prevention options beyond condoms, such as rectal microbicides.

Contrary to rampant, pernicious mischaracterizations—fueled by structural homophobia that negates the existence of gay/MSM and completely devalues their lives—gay men and other MSM exist in Africa. Hello! Despite official HIV/AIDS estimates that mostly ignore this fact, these men constitute a substantial percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS on the continent.

You can click here to check out the slides from each of the presentations, by the way. Meanwhile, I want to focus on the talk presented by Chris Beyrer of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which kept my jaw dropped throughout. After contextualizing the challenges faced by African gay/MSM — including criminalization, stigma, discrimination, human rights abuses, lack of access to prevention and care, and limited HIV surveillance—Chris shared some numbers from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritania, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana. The data revealed high burdens of HIV among gay/MSM across all these countries—significantly higher than prevalence rates among males from the general population in each country save South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, where there are similar rates of HIV among gay/MSM compared to heterosexual men of reproductive age.

Another quick reminder: prevalence refers to the overall number of people with HIV in a specific population.

Read Article HERE

December 11, 2009 – IGLHRC

United Nations: Landmark Meeting Denounces Rights Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Holy See Condemns Criminalization of Homosexual Conduct

IGLHRC: Sara Perle, +1-212-430-6015
HRW: Scott Long, +1-212-216-1297
Global Advocates for Trans Equality: Justus Eisfeld, +1-646-341-1699
Arc International: John Fisher, +41-22-733-4705
COC Netherlands: Björn van Roozendaal, + 31-20-623-4596

(New York) – A United Nations General Assembly panel that met this week broke new ground and helped build new momentum for ending human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a coalition of sponsoring nongovernmental organizations said today.

The meeting included discussion of discriminatory and draconian "anti-homosexuality" legislation currently before the Ugandan parliament, and of the role of American religious groups in promoting repression across Africa. In a groundbreaking move, a representative of the Holy See in the audience read a statement strongly condemning the criminalization of homosexual conduct.

The panel, held yesterday on the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, featured speakers from Honduras, India, the Philippines, and Zambia, as well as Uganda, where the proposed "anti-homosexuality law" shows the steady threat of government repression.

Sweden organized the panel in coalition with Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. It was sponsored by a group of six nongovernmental organizations that defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The audience of 200 people included delegates from over 50 nations.

Ugandan lawmakers are currently debating the "anti-homosexuality" bill. While there were reports that the death-penalty provisions might be stripped from the bill, other punishments would remain that would drive many Ugandans underground or out of the country, participants said.

Speaking on the panel, Victor Mukasa, co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and program associate for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC), described how he was forced to leave Uganda following police brutality and raids on his home. He said that Uganda’s "anti-homosexuality" bill reflects a pattern of state-sponsored homophobia spreading across the African continent.

"Lack of security, arbitrary arrests and detentions, violence, and killings of LGBT people have become the order of the day in Africa," said Mukasa. "Nothing can change as long as LGBT people live in fear for their safety when they claim their basic human rights."

The statement from the Holy See said it "opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.…[T]he murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State."

Also at the panel discussion, the Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who is project director for Political Research Associates (PRA) in Massachusetts, presented the group’s new report, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia.

Kaoma said that many anti-LGBT attitudes across Africa are fueled by US groups actively exporting homophobia. He called on US religious figures who have been promoting hatred and fear of homosexuality in Africa to denounce the Uganda bill unequivocally, and support the human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Citing their moral responsibility to prevent violence, he also urged them to make such declarations in Africa, not just before US audiences.

Other panelists highlighted governments’ complicity in prejudice and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Indyra Mendoza Aguilar, coordinator of the Lésbica Feminista Cattrachas network in Honduras said that an atmosphere of impunity since the June coup in Honduras has meant spreading violence against already marginalized people. "In Honduras, as in many countries, the state turns a blind eye to violence against our communities," said Mendoza Aguilar. "Today we issue a call for reforming our societies, free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, free of impunity."

Vivek Divan, an Indian attorney and member of the team that led a successful legal challenge to India’s colonial-era sodomy law, described the provision’s insidious effects, promoting inequality, excusing violence, and permitting state intrusion into private lives. The Delhi High Court overturned the law this year in a landmark decision affirming diversity as a core value of the Indian state. Speakers also stressed how torture, killings, and other grave abuses target people not just because of their sexualities, but because they look, dress, or act in ways that defy deeply rooted patriarchal norms for expressing masculinity and femininity.

"Now is the time to realize that diversity does not diminish our humanity," said Sass Sasot, co-founder of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). "You want to be born, to live, and die with dignity – so do we! You want to live with authenticity – so do we!"