Gay Malawi News & Reports 2005-09

0 Malawi rejects ‘pro-gay’ bishop 2/05

0a CEDEP advocates for homosexuality 1/07

0b Homosexuality exists in Malawi prisons 4/07

0c CEDEP presents research findings on HIV 7/08

0d Malawi MSM survey reveals very high HIV acquisition 8/08

1 Malawian gays form association 8/08

2 Malawi Gay Rights Movement to promote female condoms 8/08

3 Free AIDS drugs reduce Malawi death rates 8/08

4 Gay group launches in Malawi 9/08

5 McConnell in middle of gay rights row in Malawi 9/08

6 Gay rights supporter Jack McConnell’s Malawi job postponed 10/08

7 Malawi Gays seek audience with President 10/08

8 CEDEP challenges government on hiv and AIDS 1/09

9 HIV Prevalence, Risks for HIV Infection, and Human Rights 4/09

10 The Other Malawi, an Africa in Microcosm 5/09

11 Malawi: High-Risk Sex Among Those Who "Do Not Exist" 8/09

12 Gay rights way to fight AIDS in Malawi-official 9/09

13 Religion and Stigma Fan HIV Epidemic in Malawi 10/09

14 Married people practicing homosexuality 12/09

February 12, 2005 – African Veil

Malawi rejects ‘pro-gay’ bishop

African Anglican bishops have blocked the appointment of a "pro-gay" bishop in Malawi. Liberal British vicar, Rev Nicholas Henderson, was rejected for his support for gay rights, the Anglican Church of Central Africa said in a statement. He was bishop-elect of the Lake Malawi diocese, but his association with the theologically liberal Modern Church People’s Union made him "unsuitable". The Anglican Church in Africa takes a conservative view of homosexuality. Rev Henderson was elected by the local diocese in July to serve as bishop for the Lake Malawi region, but conservative members challenged the move. The bishops from Malawi, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe met this week to consider these reservations. “Quite a number of people were doubting if Reverend Henderson is a man of sound faith and we have found that he is not, according to research by the Anglican Church,” said Malango. He continued, "the Church has already communicated to Henderson about the rejection. I already informed him yesterday about his rejection and he is in a state of shock."

He said the Church has already identified another bishop to take charge of the affairs of the diocese but did not disclose his name. “I will not release the name of the new bishop right now because if I do so, the story will be all over and even on the Internet which is not good,” said Malango. But sources close to the church said Thursday the authorities have settled for retired Bishop Leonard Mwenda of the Diocese of Lusaka. Malango said the new bishop would be looking after the diocese for a year or two until a replacement is found. “The new bishop will be here in the first or second week of January just to handle the current situation and bring reconciliation among the Christians because the church is divided right now,” said Malango.

The court of confirmation sat following a petition that was presented by three Christians from the diocese, Sebastian Ndelemani, Michael Simon and Reverend Geoffrey Mchinga who presented eight grounds for objecting the confirmation of Henderson. Speaking from Nkhotakota Thursday, Simon said he and his friends are happy that Henderson has been rejected. “We are happy with the decision because we don’t want our diocese to be associated with a bishop with questionable integrity,” he said. African Anglican Church leaders have been vocal opponents of moves by other Anglican groups to extend broader recognition of homosexual rights.

23 January 2007 – African Veil

CEDEP advocates for homosexuality

A local NGO, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), is unhappy with some sections in the Penal Code of Malawi that criminalise homosexuality and wants them repealed. But Attorney General (AG) Jane Ansah said in an interview Monday that what Malawi has is a law that could be changed by Malawians themselves if they wanted. “If Malawians say this is what they want, it will be so, but I cannot say what government’s stand is. Malawians speak through national constitutional conferences,” Ansah said.

The Blantyre-based NGO, in a press statement that appeared in The Daily Times of Monday headlined ‘Gaps and areas of inconsistency in the Constitution and the Penal Code of Malawi’, says some sections are fatally responsible for government’s failure to fully implement the National AIDS Policy Provisions. Cedep says sections 153 and 156 of the Penal Code target any conduct or forms of behaviour that are not heterosexual.

“It should be observed that the sections do not draw a line whether or not such practices happen in private or in public or those involved are consenting adults or not. As a type of law, its distinctive mark is that it adopts a technique that is essentially condemnatory and authorises the use of violence against citizen and the deprivation of certain rights and freedoms,” reads the statement. But according to Ansah, who stressed that it was her personal view, every law has got background, citing the right to privacy law, which she said came against the opening of people’s mail and taping telephones conversations.

“The issue of homosexuality was never discussed at the national constitutional conference. If they say homosexuality is done in private, how come people know about it? Nowhere in the world do people have sex in public, but sex still takes place,” said Ansah, stressing that was her own opinion as a human rights expert. The statement by the NGO says the decision to criminalise conduct of other forms of behaviour should have a principled and rational basis.

“By the way, is it the State’s business to dictate to its citizens how to play sex and with whom? And why should people be sent to jail merely for their unique sexual orientation in circumstances where what they do does no harm to anyone,” it reads. It says by criminalizing sexual practices between two consenting adults in private, the offenses were a serious threat to the citizen’s constitutional rights to privacy, dignity and freedom of association. The sections, the statement argues, empower the State to violate the rights of its citizens to privacy under the guise of enforcing morality.

Cedep recommends to the Malawi Law Commission conducts a comprehensive review of penal statutes to determine whether the criminal offences they create are consistent with constitutional and international human rights standards. The Commission, reads the statement, should be guided by principle rather that populist rhetoric in which prejudice against non-conformism masquerades as public morality and so called cultural values. Cedep’s operations manager Gift Tranpence said in an interview yesterday they would shortly write to Malawi Law Commission on the matter.

Few years ago Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) urged Malawians to debate whether to legalise homosexuality or not, citing the same reasons that it impedes on the citizens’ human rights, but their call was met with condemnation from the general public and religious community.

22 April 2007 – African Veil

Homosexuality exists in Malawi prisons

The words ‘homosexuals’ and ‘lesbians’ were almost a taboo in Malawi and most parts of Africa. But in today’s fast modernised world, they are becoming common in our society. Although it is not easy to come across a person in the country who can publicly declare that he or she is gay or lesbian, their existence cannot be ruled out. One place where this act is reported to be rampant is in prisons. But it remains mere speculation as none of the inmates or Malawi Prisons Service officials has confirmed. Balaka North Member of Parliament Lucius Banda, who spent more than two months at Zomba Maximum Prison, confirms that homosexuality, popularly known as “chikayidi” within the prisons, is rampant.

“Homosexuality is very common, in fact it is not a secret, there are couples in prisons,” he says. “I am a witness. One of my jobs in prison was to protect young boys who are the main victims of this act.” He said the prison authorities convened a meeting to establish if what a newspaper article said about sodomy in prison was a true reflection of what was happening inside. “I and some few friends attended the meeting and we made it clear to the authorities that homosexuality was rampant and in response, they separated the boys from the nyapalas.

“I tell you, we were in problems, the nyapalas wanted to beat us up because they said we had initiated that their ‘wives’ should be taken away from them,” he said.

Banda, a music icon, says it was a pity that as a country, the plight of prisoners is given a blind eye. “It is a pity that no one seems to care but I tell you, at least everyday, you hear that someone has been taken to hospital for sexually transmitted diseases,” he laments. But the MP was not sure whether condoms should be distributed to inmates saying: “I would say yes because they are really doing it but I would say no because it will be like legalising it. It’s a tricky situation.” Prison authorities fail to come in the open to admit that homosexuality is practised just under their noses. “We are not saying it does not exist in prison,” says Tobias Nowa, Malawi Prisons Public Relations Officer. “We hear from various quarters that homosexuality exists.”

“The problem is that the [victims of homosexual assault] do not come to us to complain for fear that their colleagues will be prosecuted and punished,” he says.

But when Nowa was reminded that at one time, the authorities at Zomba Prisons including him, were told about the existence of sodomy and that they acted swiftly, he said: “You know, as the official spokesperson, I know what to say and what not to say. So whatever you hear from ex-prisoners like Honourable Banda should not be officiated,” he said. Under the laws of Malawi, homosexuality is a punishable offence. Delegates to the constitutional review conference last week agreed to maintain the illegality of homosexual in the country.

Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM) has brought a new twist to the debate of the existence of homosexual activities in prisons. According to BLM, condoms should be legalised in prisons. Why legalise condoms in Prisons? BLM Country Director Walker Jiyani told a news conference recently in Blantyre that studies have shown that homosexuality exists among inmates. Jiyani was speaking at the end of BLM’s Health in Prisons Services Project which was being funded by British Department for International Development (DFID) through Malawi Access to Safety, Security and Justice (MASSAJ. But it does not mean that all the prisoners involved in homosexuality are gay. Jiyani observes that some are pushed into the act because they are locked away from their spouses.

He added: “Because of that, we would have loved to see condoms used in prisons to control STIs but the law doesn’t permit it.” A renowned human rights activist Emmie Chanika says it would not be wise to distribute condoms among the inmates for use in prisons. “I say no to condom distribution in prisons for the sake of our innocent male species. This will encourage the culprits to rape our boys and men who are in prison,” she says. Chairman for Prison Inspectorate Justice George Chimasula Phiri says although it is difficult to break through on matters of homosexuality in prisons, the belief is there that it happens. “In the interest of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, it is very important to give them condoms but on the other hand, it would grow to a larger extent. It’s like we are saying you can go ahead, its legalised by distributing condoms,” says Chimasula Phiri.

The High Court judge says prisoners themselves were a stumbling block because they have never heeded calls from the Inspectorate to lodge complaints if there experience any type of assaults. Nowa prayed that the law that governs the operations of the Prisons should be amended to legalise the distribution of condoms, otherwise he says: “We cannot distribute condoms to prisoners when we know that homosexuality is an offence. But we call upon researchers to do a research and publicise the findings so that we come up with an official stand on homosexuality.” He said his department has invited officials from Prison HIV/AIDS programme in Sadc based in South Africa to come and conduct the research and an official stand would be drawn from the results.

Nowa says at the moment, the prison authorities in collaboration with BLM distribute condoms to prisoners who have finished serving their sentences for use at their homes. Secretary for Health responsible for HIV/AIDS Mary Shawa said government could not exactly say what they are going to do because Malawi Prison Service has not come in the open to declare if they have a problem of homosexuality. Shawa, however, said one of the duties of organisations involved in reproductive health service delivery, especially those related to HIV/AIDS, is to provide preventive measures one of which are condoms. “So it’s up to the Prison Service to tell us about the matter and how it can be handled,” she said, adding that homosexuality remains an offence in the country.

Chanika, an executive director for Civil Liberties Committee (Cilic), suggests that inmates interested in homosexual activities should be separated from others. “The problem in Malawi prisons is that there is lack of control. Like at Chichiri or Zomba, 2,000 prisoners are locked up with no guards’ cubicle inside that large complex. “Let us sort out the mayhem in the prison cells and then you can distribute your condoms if you prove that our boys and men will not be forced into homosexuality. Or simply, put the homos together,” suggests Chanika.

Chairperson for Public Affairs Committee (Pac), a religious grouping, Fr Boniface Tamani says morally, it is unacceptable to distribute condoms in prisons or otherwise. Tamani, whose Roman Catholic church condemns any use of condoms, says the problem is that condom manufacturers and distributors do not explain that the sheaths are not 100 percent effective. He said homosexuality exists and prisons are not exceptional but added that some people are born gay as an abnormality which he said should not be encouraged.

12 July 2008 – Nyasa Times

CEDEP presents research findings on HIV sero-prevalence among MSM in Malawi.

by Gift Trapence
While lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in countries such as Uganda continue to fight for their inclusion in the HIV and AIDS programmes, Malawian LGBTI community is making noticeable strides towards recognition. This comes after the Center for the Development of People (CEDEP), a Malawian human rights organisation, presented research findings on HIV sero- prevalence study among men who have sex with other men (MSM) in Malawi. The findings were delivered at this year’s National HIV and AIDS Research and Best Practices Dissemination Conference, held at Malawi Institute of Management in Lilongwe between 25 and 27 June.

With the aim of informing policymakers, development partners, programme planners and implementers about using the research evidence in planning and implementing HIV and AIDS interventions in Malawi, the conference also aimed to provide a national forum to discuss recent and on-going HIV and AIDS research findings and best practices. It drew together participants from a cross section of experts and professionals working in the HIV and AIDS programmes throughout Malawi including individual researchers, experts from research institutions, government officials, HIV and AIDS Programmes coordinators, non-governmental organisations and donors.

The sero- prevalence study that CEDEP presented was conducted in collaboration with John Hopkins Centre for Health and Human Rights, SHARP, Open Society Institute of Southern Africa (OSISA) and a Consultant from the University Of Malawi College Of Medicine. The survey was also conducted in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The main objective of the research was to establish HIV prevalence and related risk factors among MSM in Malawi. The results indicated that HIV prevalence was 21.4 %( 43/201), with 95.3% unaware of their HIV status (41/43).

They also showed that 76% of MSM susceptible to HIV were between the ages of 18 and 25. About 75% of the percentage above had had multiple male sexual partners of about 14 in average in a period of six months. In addition, 56% of the men had multiple female sexual partners of about 12 in average. Even so, the majority of about 76.5 % indicated that no health professional had ever recommended that they did an HIV test. While 56 % had accessed information on how they could protect themselves from HIV infections, only 43.5 % had never. CEDEP believes that the findings are worrying as they indicate that almost half of the MSM engaging in sexual relations don’t have knowledge regarding protection.

Human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation are also fairly high with about 39% among MSM being victims of crimes such as violence, blackmailing, denial of healthcare and housing, and rape. The results of this study as well as sero-prevalence studies from other African countries indicate that HIV prevalence among African MSM is much higher than the general population. According to CEDEP, the contribution of MSM to HIV incidents and new cases per year in Malawi may be disproportionately high.

“This is the case, given the high number of bisexuals, and this will most certainly be the case if no effort is made to mitigate the HIV epidemic among Malawian MSM”, explained the report. It added that the data justifies the need for MSM prevention programmes which can be beneficial to the public health. “It would helpful for organisations involved in HIV prevention to have HIV programmes as part of a public health approach. There is need for specific interventions that can meet MSM specific health needs”, the report said. However, CEDEP acknowledges that people who were listening to the presentation at the conference were supportive and that they highlighted the need for the issue of MSM to receive some attention in Malawi.

August 3, 2008 –

Malawi MSM survey reveals very high HIV acquisition and transmission risks

by Gus Cairns
The first figures released from a series of systematic surveys of men who have sex with men in southern Africa has revealed, at least in the first site analysed in Malawi, very high levels of behaviours likely to enhance the spread of HIV. The figures were presented at the meeting of the Global Forum on Men who have Sex with Men and HIV, a satellite conference on gay men and MSM attended by nearly 500 people in the two days preceding the World AIDS Conference.
Nearly two-thirds of the men surveyed had had sex with women as well as men in the last six months and nearly half had a steady female partner; only a third consistently used condoms in casual sex with other men and only a quarter with women; and although the average number of male partners amongst the group as a whole in the previous six months was four, amongst those with HIV it was 14.

HIV prevalence among MSM was 21%, nearly twice the general-population prevalence of 12%; in early results from the South African survey HIV prevalence was similarly about double that in the general population. The Malawi survey was the first in a series conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, in partnership with local LGBT and sexual rights organisations. The other three are taking place in townships near Cape Town in South Africa; in Gaborone, Botswana; and in Windhoek, Namibia. Very early results from the Cape Town study were also presented and the community partner from the Botswana study also presented the study background, but was unable to present figures owing to the Botswana government’s initial unwillingness to support a survey of male/male sex in their country. Related surveys had also been conducted in Nigeria and Ghana; the one in Ghana had been completed but the Ghanaian health ministry is at present refusing to publish the findings.

Gift Trapence of the Malawi sexual rights group the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) presented the findings from the Malawi study. Each of the four studies had the same methodology. Twenty MSM were originally recruited from researchers’ contacts and each was then asked to contact another ten, leading to a ‘convenience sample’ of 200 men. The men answered a standardised questionnaire on sexual behaviour and gave a saliva sample for an anonymous OraQuick HIV test. This kind of ‘snowball’ methodology is unlikely, of course, to lead to a sample of people who are truly representative of the population they are investigating because it is dependent on personal contacts. So the findings don’t establish a denominator (they don’t demonstrate how common male/male sex is in Malawi) and they don’t establish if the group studied is representative of all MSM. However they do give a vivid picture of a previously invisible subculture. Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and punishable by up to14 years in prison, which has prevented the development of an open gay community.

Because of the survey methodology, this was a well-educated urban population. Their mean age was 26, 91% had been in secondary education and 70% were of urban origin, in this overwhelmingly rural country. In one indication of rapidly-changing sexual opportunity and mores, 44% had met sexual partners on the internet; in another, 12% had at any time injected drugs, though the survey does not say which ones. Being ‘out’ as gay or bisexual was rare; only 6% had told immediate family members about their sexuality and only 14% a member of their extended family.

Fifty-five per cent said they currently had a boyfriend, 47% a girlfriend and 26% said they had both male and female steady partners. Only 40% defined themselves as gay or homosexual, 53% as bisexual and 7% heterosexual. Forty-five per cent only had casual partners. The mean number of male partners men had had in the last six months was 3.9 and 1.5 female partners; 17.5% had had six or more male partners. Sixty-three per cent had also had at least one sexual contact with a woman in the six months. HIV status was related to self-defined sexuality; 15% of the 106 men who defined as bisexual had HIV, 26% of the 79 men who defined as gay, but none of the 15 men who defined as straight. In a multivariate model, the only significant risk factors for HIV were meeting partners on the internet, not always using condoms and being over 25.

Thirty-five per cent said they always used condoms with casual male partners and 25% with any partner. With casual female partners 26% always used condoms and with any partner 19.5%. With casual male partners 22% ‘sometimes’ used them, 2.5% rarely and 10% never, with the remainder not having casual partners; with casual female partners12.5% ‘sometimes’ used them, 5% ‘rarely’ and 3.5% ‘never’, with the remaining 53% not having casual female partners. Only a third regularly used water-based lubricant for anal sex and only 2.6% said they ‘always’ used both condoms and a water-based lubricant. In an indication of the human rights context in which these men live, 18% said they had been afraid to seek health services because of their sexuality, 18% had been blackmailed because of their sexuality, 8% had been beaten up by the police or government officials, and 11% had been raped.

The satellite conference also heard early results from the Cape Town survey. Keren Middelkoop of the Mother City Men’s Health Project gave results for 79 men recruited so far out of the target of 200 from black townships around Cape Town. In South Africa sexuality is protected under the constitution, and men had relatively higher levels of awareness and condom use. Eighty-eight per cent defined as gay or homosexual and 2.7% as transgender (compared with zero in Malawi), 50% ‘always’ used condoms and only 26% (compared with two-thirds in Malawi) used an oil-based lubricant with a condom. The HIV prevalence so far seen was 34% compared with 18-20% for the latest general-population estimate in South Africa, and 31.5% had a current acute STI (gonorrhoea, syphilis or trichonomiasis). Despite legal protection, 12% said they had been assaulted due to their sexuality (7% by the police), 8% arrested for sexual offences and 13% had been raped.

Feli Motimedi from the Botswana sexual rights organisation BONELA also reported that 117 men had so far been recruited for the Botswana survey. It had been hoped results would be ready for the World AIDS Conference, but the government had at first refused permission for the researchers to conduct the study. There had also been difficulties in recruitment (homosexuality is also illegal in Botswana). Stefan Barat, co-ordinator of the study series for Johns Hopkins, commented that these surveys would have been impossible a few years ago, but recent reports from countries like Kenya and Uganda “describe a more visible and self-defined MSM community who are asking for help with HIV prevention.”

Barat S et al. HIV epidemics among MSM in Africa: examples from Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa. Workshop R9 from The Invisible Men: Gay Men and Other MSM in the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic, pre-conference satellite to the XVII International AIDS Conference, Mexico City, 2008. See

August 20, 2008 – PinkNews

Malawian gays form association

by Rachel Charman
Gays and lesbians in Malawi have formed the Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim), as homosexuality is a criminal offence punishable by hard labour in their republic. Magrim interim chairperson, Mc Leod (who has asked to have his surname kept from the press) said: "What people must know is that Malawi has always had an active gay population, and these people have been meeting for a long time.
Only that now we have decided to come forth because we want our views heard; we are Malawian citizens who should be protected like anyone else. Doesn’t our Republican constitution say everyone is equal, and that nobody is more equal than others?"

Calls by the Malawi Human Rights Resource centre in 2005 for gay rights were met with violent opposition. Mc Leod stated that this situation was "pathetic": "These people don’t understand, but we will fight on," he continued. In fact, Malawi has an active population of 89, 000 homosexuals, and this we say because we meet, and have sexual intercourse. We have a place in Blantyre City Centre where we have been meeting for the past six years." He added that it also had plans to begin outreach activities, starting this November, to sensitise people that homosexuality is natural, and no cause for shame.

The launch for the association, which reportedly has 3,890 members, is planned for 13th September 2008, with outreach work scheduled to begin in November.

August 21, 2008 – PinkNews

Malawi Gay Rights Movement to promote female condoms

by Rachel Charman
The newly-formed gay movement in Malawi is committed to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS by advocating female condoms, Africa News reports. Chairperson of the committee of Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim) Ruth (committee members have asked for their surnames to be kept from the press) said in an interview today that members will use female condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The news came at a female condom presentation by a gay rights delegation visiting from the U.S, in the city of Blantyre.
The delegation donated 15 cartons of female condoms to Magrim.

Ruth said that Malawians must recognise gays and lesbians as "normal" people, and that they would act responsibly in the face of HIV/AIDS. She said: "We will use condoms where necessary. People have the wrong conception that whatever homosexuals do is associated with HIV and AIDS, but that is due to ignorance because there are a lot of things gays and lesbians do that do not expose one to the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS."

Ruth also attacked the notion, popular in Malawi, that homosexuality is a foreign trait that travellers perpetuate in the country. "As it is at the moment, all our members are people born and bred in Malawi," She said. We are all indigenous Malawians at the moment but are looking forward to welcoming everybody. Practicing gays from outside the country are especially asked to come forward so that we may learn from their experience. This we say because we are bracing for tough times ahead, where people and various government officials will try to frustrate us. We know that we will contribute positively towards sustainable social-economic development; and that people will come to appreciate us. These things take time."

Magrim was formed this month because as homosexuality is a criminal offence punishable by hard labour in Malawi. The launch for the association, which reportedly has 3,890 members, is planned for 13th September 2008, with outreach work scheduled to begin in November.

August 25, 2008 – Reuters

Free AIDS drugs reduce Malawi death rates

by Mabvuto Banda, Editing by Dina Kyriakidou
Lilongwe (Reuters) – Greater access to free medicine has helped slash AIDS-related deaths in Malawi by 75 percent in the last four years, a senior government official said on Monday.
HIV/AIDS has been blamed for 59 percent of deaths among those aged between 15 to 59 years in the southern African country, which has a population of 13 million.

But Malawi has made progress since 2004, when it started to offer free antiretroviral therapy — drugs that help treat immunodeficiency virus — to thousands of patients. "I am happy that AIDS related deaths have decreased by over 75 percent over the last four years in comparison with the AIDS related deaths we had in 2003-2004 because of increased free treatment," said Mary Shawa, Malawi’s principle secretary for HIV & AIDS.

Malawi has had about 800,000 AIDS related deaths since 1985, when the first case was reported. As of March this year, the government has put 159,111 people on free antiretroviral drugs and 106,547 of those are still alive. "This represents a 67 percent survival rate. But we still need to do more, because those who did not make it may have died because they started the treatment late or did not have access to proper nutrition," said Shawa.

14 September 2008 –

Gay group launches in Malawi

by Nyasa Times Reporter
The Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim) On Saturday went ahead to launch their group in the commercial capital, Blantyre without any trouble from security despite homosexuality being illegal in the country. The movement says it will now begin outreach activities, starting this November, to sensitize people that homosexuality is natural, and no cause for shame. “We have launched in style and had an official gay engagement of two boy lovers at the launch ceremony,” a spokesman of the group told Nyasa Times.
“We thank President Bingu wa Mutharika for his support and that Police did not trouble us. It was a fantastic occasion” the publicist of the movement said.

Before the launch, the group made claims that President Mutharika gave them the green light to exist despite the penal code prescribe hard labour as punishment for homosexuals. “The leadership of Magrim sought an audience with the President to seek permission to launch the movement. The President has wished us well and promised to grant an audience when he returns from USA where he has gone for a UN summit,” said Magrin spokesman.

Magrim interim chairperson, Mc Leod said the homosexuality fraternity in Malawi, has 3,890 members and that new members have been netted after the launch. “The association has now received new members and we are likely to grow substantially,” said Mc Leod. The Gay movement applauded the President soft spot on homosexuality and said they will go ahead to sensitize and lure Malawians into the act claiming Malawi has had an active gay population and that they have been meeting for a long time.

They have also in turn pledged to give Mutharika votes during the 2009 polls.The movement said it will lobby amendment of the Panel Code which criminalizes homosexuality saying the constitution of the republic which has bill of rights does not condone discrimination. "In fact, Malawi has an active population of 89, 000 homosexuals, and this we say because we meet, and have sexual intercourse,” disclosed Mc Leod. Sources say amongst people meeting in the homosexual community are prominent business persons, politicians, well known artists, journalists and clerics. "We have a place in Blantyre City Centre where we have been meeting for the past six years," disclosed Gay leader.

27th September 2008 – Sunday Herald

McConnell in middle of gay rights row in Malawi

by Mark Howarth
Jack McConnell has found himself stuck in the middle of an ugly homophobic spat over gay rights in Malawi just months before he takes up his new post as the British High Commissioner of the impoverished African nation.
On one-side are the liberal gay rights group who believe McConnell will help them bring about an end to the criminal ban on gay relationships in Malawi, and on the other are the homophobic politicians who say the former Labour First Minister, who is due to take up his post in the new year, isn’t welcome in the country, and even he should be stripped of his role as High Commissioner.

Gay rights campaigners have adopted the Motherwell and Wishaw MSP as their champion as a battle to overturn the legal ban on homosexuality. A spokesman for the Malawian Gay Rights Movement (Magrim), which was launched this month after years as an underground movement, said: "We are anxiously waiting for the arrival of Jack McConnell. He supports gay rights and we believe he will use his influence as High Commissioner as well as his close working relationship with President Bingu Mutharika to put in place friendly legislation for homosexuality." But the citing of McConnell’s liberal credentials by Magrim has sparked fury among hardline politicians.

MP Aden Mbowani of the opposition Malawi Congress Party wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a campaign to replace McConnell as High Commissioner. He warned: "Homosexuality is an evil thing that can bring incurable disease to the whole world. "This man you call McConnell, he will not influence any policy in this country. Personally, I wouldn’t think he’s welcome in Malawi. As a human being he can come and visit us, no problem. But to talk about homosexuality in our country, I don’t think Malawians will want to listen to that kind of nonsense. It’s a non-starter."

Mbowani – who sits on the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee – even took a veiled jibe at Scottish women, adding: "He will not manage to change us. We have beautiful women here to marry – even in his country there are beautiful women." The row has ignited the Malawian blogosphere where writers and commentators are debating the issue online. On one website, there was growing suspicion that President Mutharika’s tacit approval of Magrim’s launch is the result of McConnell’s influence.

One comment read: "There is simply not much of a vote of confidence to be obtained for homosexuality in Malawi – so you can implicate the Diplomat." Another stated: "McConnell and Mutharika, you are mad. Go away, leave the warm heart of Africa alone." But one activist wrote: "Let McConnell come. We gays are happy for him. He will enhance our fight against homophobia." A spokesman for the politician said: "Jack McConnell is not going there to tell the people or their politicians what to do. He is going with the aim of helping to improve the education that young people receive."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Mr McConnell’s appointment ensures that someone who has had extensive experience both of development work and of the challenges facing Malawi will be in place." McConnell is an MSP but has come under pressure to resign his seat before replacing Richard Wildash, who ends his term as our man in Lilongwe in January. Speculation is rife that his resignation from Holyrood is imminent. A Labour source revealed the leadership is considering holding a snap poll in Motherwell and Wishaw on the same day as the Glenrothes by-election on November 6.

The insider said: "They’re weighing up whether or not the SNP are likely to win Jack’s seat. If they think defeat is on the cards, they will try to wrap up all the bad news on one day while the US elections are still hogging the headlines."

October 5, 2008 – PinkNews

Gay rights supporter Jack McConnell’s Malawi job postponed

by Tony Grew
Former First Minister of Scotland Jack McConnell has been appointed an envoy to countries recovering from conflict. The Prime Minister’s decision to create the part-time role means that Mr McConnell will retain his seat in the Scottish Parliament, avoiding the need for a by-election. He was due take up post as High Commissioner to Malawi next year.
That appointment is "on hold" as he takes up his new role, which will be partially based at the Foreign Office.

His support for gay rights in office led Malawi’s nacsent gay rights movement to claim he will to support their cause as the UK’s representative in the former African colony. Labour face defeat in a Westminster by-election in the Scottish seat of Glenrothes on November 6th. It is thought that the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Baroness Ashton to replace Peter Mandelson as the UK’s European Union Commissioner, a post long rumoured to be coveted by Geoff Hoon, was to avoid a by-election in Mr Hoon’s constituency.

The reshuffle of the government, which saw the surprise return of Peter Mandelson to UK politics as Business Secretary, has been completed but not all details about changes in the lower ranks of ministers have been revealed. Mr McConnell was the longest-serving First Minister of Scotland to date, from November 2001 to May 2007. The announcement of his appointment as High Commissioner to Malawi last year caused some controversy in the country. In August 2007 the head of the main opposition party in Malawi – the United Democratic Front – said his support for the repeal of Section 28 and civil unions meant he was an unsuitable person to act on behalf of the country.

"To have a man who supports gay rights to come to Malawi is dangerous for us," Friday Jumbe said. "He can easily use his influence as High Commissioner to force legislation and that’s my biggest fear. I don’t want him and I know I am speaking for my party and many legislators that we cannot allow such a person in Malawi." His appointment as British High Commissioner angered civil servant unions who complained to Gordon Brown that the post should have been decided in an open competition.

High Commissioners are the senior diplomats in charge of the diplomatic mission of one Commonwealth government to another. Under the Labour government a number of posts have been filled by retiring politicians. Former Cabinet minister Paul Boateng is the High Commissioner to South Africa. Former Secretary of State for Scotland Helen Liddell is British High Commissioner to Australia.

The Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim), which was launched last monrh as a public campaign group after six years underground, reignited the row around the appointment of the former Scottish leader. The group claimed Mr McConnell will support their cause.

"We are anxiously waiting for the arrival of Jack McConnell," a Magrim spokesperson said last week. "He supports gay rights and we believe he will use his influence as High Commissioner as well as his close working relationship with President Bingu wa Mutharika to put in place friendly legislation for homosexuality." Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Malawi, punishable by hard labour.

Magrim claims there is an "active population" of 89,000 gays and lesbians in the country. It is inclear if the current High Commissioner will remain in post.

10 October 2008 –

Malawi Gays seek audience with President

Nyasa Times – The Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim) will have an audience with President Bingu Mutharika, Nyasa Times has learnt. Magrim officials confirmed seeking audience with the Head of State and that the President “was pleased to host them”. However Magrim chairperson only identified as Mc Leod said the meeting which was expected for today [October 10] has been rescheduled to later date as the President was attending a funeral of his relation in Blantyre. The homosexuals have been invited to the State House following their offer of K10 million in campaign funds for aspiring Members of Parliament (MPs) who accept to propagate their interests in the next parliament.

President Mutharika has been lauded by Malawi homosexuals for giving them “moral support” to exist. The gays association announced that it has managed to source funds for the 2009 elections campaign and that only those aspiring MPs who promise to support gay rights in Malawi would benefit from the “Gay Rights Fund”. Magrin said they would also donate funds to a presidential candidate who has their interest at heart. “Malawi Gays association is behind the presidential candidacy of the incumbent [Bingu Mutharika] because we have managed to launch successfully under his leadership,” said Magrin spokesperson.

Malawi hold presidential and legislative elections on May 19, 2009, a development Magrin says it wants to utilise. On sponsoring parliamentary candidate, Mc Leod explained: "What will happen is that these people, who accept to propagate issues affecting gays in Malawi once elected, will be taken to our [gay] lawyers where we will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so that they don’t cheat us in the end because the money we are putting in is too much to play a losing game". The Magrim chairperson cited assertions by some members of the public that all those fighting for gay rights in Malawi be dealt with, by hook or crook, a development he termed as worrisome and against the principals of human rights.

Said he: "We are Malawians, this is our country, and, apart from it, we have nowhere to live. Why are some ill-informed individuals worried about something that does not concern them; it is very unfair to us. All we want is love and peaceful co-existence because we did not wish to be gays, it is natural. While others may claim to be gays as a means of showing off, to most of us it is natural, like heterosexuality, and we are happy to be what we are.”

He said their launch in Blantyre recently was graced by an equally good number of women, hinting that, in two years time, gay rights will have been taken as a very crucial component of human rights. "Gay rights are human rights, and people must come to terms with that fact. Whether one likes it or not, we have homosexuals in Malawi, and these people are now ready to stand for their rights,” he said. He said the gay organisation is growing and getting more accepted by Malawian society.

"W e plan to establish branches, so that we reach as many people as possible. I tell you, Malawi has a lot of gay people who have remained oppressed over the years by outdated laws but are now ready to stand up for their rights. Suppressing us is like imposing a new form of colonialism," said Mc Leod. He disclosed that they will soon be receiving a foreign delegation for an orientation on effective advocacy campaigns, a development he said will empower them to scale up their activities for gay people to be able to contribute towards sustainable, social-economic development.

Malawi laws criminalise same sex marriages.

January 15, 2009 – Behind The Mask
A website magazine on lesbian and gay affairs in africa

CEDEP challenges government on hiv and AIDS

by Dunker Kamba (BTM Correspondent)
Malawi – Center for the Development of People (CEDEP), a non-governmental organisation in Malawi, highlighted the plight of HIV prevalence among men who have sex with other men (MSM) in that country recently during a workshop in Blantyre.
With intentions to promote advancement of the minority and vulnerable groups in the context of human rights, economy, health, HIV and Aids and other social issues, CEDEP’s workshop discussed the issues the organisation deemed taboo to point out at national level in Malawi due to denial of MSM existence.

The workshop also discussed the results of a survey carried out in January 2008 among 200 MSM which revealed that HIV prevalence amongst this group is at 21% while the national prevalence is at 12%. Florence Kayambo of Malawi National Aids Council, who has in the past questioned the visibility of MSM, attended the workshop. In her speech, Kayambo encouraged MSM in Malawi to come out mentioning that she has seen people who are “open” about their real identities in Southern African Countries such as Kenya and South Africa.

“This has influenced interventions from their governments and other organisations to work hand in hand in implementing better methods of HIV and Aids and STIs prevention”, Kayambo claimed. She pointed out that despite social, legal and religious taboos, “it is certain that gay people exist in every society” and that “there is a need to involve them in HIV and Aids programmes.” CEDEP expressed its wish to frequently hold workshops of this nature to ensure a better health for all, and targeting people who are not represented at the national level.

It also noted that most HIV prevention messages in Malawi target heterosexuals therefore leaving the gay community in the dark on matters that affect them. CEDEP concluded that many gay people in Malawi and some parts of Africa do not identify themselves as such because of the stigma and discrimination. “As a result they may also be unaware of the health risks and fail to negotiate for safer sex. Therefore they seldom practice safer sex and risk becoming infected or transmitting the HIV and STIs to their partners”, CEDEP outlined.

April 2009 –

HIV Prevalence, Risks for HIV Infection, and Human Rights among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana

by Stefan Baral1,7*, Gift Trapence2, Felistus Motimedi3, Eric Umar4, Scholastika Iipinge5, Friedel Dausab6, Chris Beyrer1
(1 Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America, 2 Center for the Development of People, Blantyre, Malawi, 3 Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS, Gaborone, Botswana, 4 Department of Community Health, University of Malawi,-College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi, 5 HIV/AIDS Coordinator, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia, 6 The Rainbow Project, Windhoek, Namibia, 7 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

In the generalized epidemics of HIV in southern Sub-Saharan Africa, men who have sex with men have been largely excluded from HIV surveillance and research. Epidemiologic data for MSM in southern Africa are among the sparsest globally, and HIV risk among these men has yet to be characterized in the majority of countries.

A cross-sectional anonymous probe of 537 men recruited with non-probability sampling among men who reported ever having had sex with another man in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana using a structured survey instrument and HIV screening with the OraQuick© rapid test kit.

Principal Findings
The HIV prevalence among those between the ages of 18 and 23 was 8.3% (20/241); 20.0% (42/210) among those 24–29; and 35.7% (30/84) among those older than 30 for an overall prevalence of 17.4% (95% CI 14.4–20.8). In multivariate logistic regressions, being older than 25 (aOR 4.0, 95% CI 2.0–8.0), and not always wearing condoms during sex (aOR 2.6, 95% CI 1.3–4.9) were significantly associated with being HIV-positive. Sexual concurrency was common with 16.6% having ongoing concurrent stable relationships with a man and a woman and 53.7% had both male and female sexual partners in proceeding 6 months. Unprotected anal intercourse was common and the use of petroleum-based lubricants was also common when using condoms. Human rights abuses, including blackmail and denial of housing and health care was prevalent with 42.1% (222/527) reporting at least one abuse.

MSM are a high-risk group for HIV infection and human rights abuses in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana. Concurrency of sexual partnerships with partners of both genders may play important roles in HIV spread in these populations. Further epidemiologic and evaluative research is needed to assess the contribution of MSM to southern Africa’s HIV epidemics and how best to mitigate this. These countries should initiate and adequately fund evidence-based and targeted HIV prevention programs for MSM.

Citation: Baral S, Trapence G, Motimedi F, Umar E, Iipinge S, et al. (2009) HIV Prevalence, Risks for HIV Infection, and Human Rights among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana. PLoS ONE 4(3): e4997. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004997

Editor: Lisa F. P. Ng, Singapore Immunology Network, Singapore

Received: December 21, 2008; Accepted: March 4, 2009; Published: March 26, 2009

Copyright: © 2009 Baral et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: This study was supported by the Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). The decision to publish was made by the community partners and not the funders. Publication costs were offset by a grant from The Himmelfarb Family Foundation to the Center for Public Health and Human Rights.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

* E-mail:

While southern Sub-Saharan Africa has long been the most HIV/AIDS affected region globally, it has been arguably the most understudied for the risk of HIV associated with male to male sexual contact [1]–[3] The crude characterization of these epidemics as generalized and driven by heterosexual risks has obscured the component of Southern Africa’s epidemics which may be due to risks among men who have sex with men (MSM). The marked homophobia, discrimination, and criminalization of same-sex behavior in much of Africa have likely limited investigation among these men. [4], [5]. Data regarding the prevalence of MSM in the region are among the sparsest globally, but there is evidence that male to male sexual contact is a reality on this continent as on all others [2]. To date, there have been published papers from only Senegal and Kenya describing HIV risk and prevalence among MSM in Africa [6], [7]. However, a systematic review found studies from other African countries either not presenting HIV prevalence data or studies that to-date have only been presented as abstracts [3]. These studies suggest that African MSM are at substantial risk for HIV infection, and that they have been markedly underserved and marginalized. Reported HIV rates, where available, have been higher than among other men of reproductive age in the same populations, yet these men tend to have limited knowledge of the health related risks of anal intercourse [8]–[10]. The lack of data on MSM and HIV are paradoxically the most marked for the world’s highest prevalence zone; the southern region of Sub-Saharan Africa. No published studies have reported HIV prevalence among MSM in Namibia, Malawi, and Botswana, three profoundly HIV/AIDS affected southern states. MSM have not been included in the HIV/AIDS strategies in these countries and same sex behavior among consenting adults is criminalized in all three states in 2008.

Concurrency of sexual relationships has been posited by several groups as a key driver of the high rates of prevalence in the southern African region [11], [12]. Yet concurrency of same and opposite sex partners has been little studied, and may play important roles as well.

To address these lack of HIV prevalence and risk and rights data among MSM in these states, and to support the emerging community groups advocating for recognition and health services for these men, our collaborative group developed a technically simple epidemiology and human rights study protocol which could be implemented by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) rights groups with minimal cost, and with maximum protection for participants. The results presented here are the first epidemiologic probe of HIV among MSM in Namibia, Botswana, and Malawi.

Study Area

This study was completed in Blantyre and Lilongwe in Malawi, Windhoek, Namibia, and Gaborone, Botswana. These countries were chosen based on being within the encashment area of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, having generalized HIV epidemics, no data available characterizing HIV risk among MSM, and having community-based organizations that were keen and able to collaborate on a study characterizing MSM in their community.
Study population and sampling methods

Eligible participants were 18 years old or older, had a history of ever having had anal intercourse with another man, and were able to give verbal informed consent for HIV screening in local languages. Inclusion criteria were not based on sexual orientation or identity, frequency of sexual contacts, previous HIV testing, or known HIV serostatus. Given the hidden nature of MSM in these communities, participants were recruited by in-country community-based organizations (CBO) with experience working with gay, bisexual, and other MSM. In-country technical support was provided as requested by the CBOs. In Namibia, investigators from the University of Namibia HIV/AIDS unit played a central role in providing ongoing support for this work. Similarly, researchers from the Malawi College of Medicine supported the Malawian CBO. The study staff was provided on–site training in outreach and recruitment, obtaining informed consent, and in interviewing techniques. The study was anonymous, confidential, and no written communications were shared with participants to minimize the risk of disclosure of MSM status. Sample size calculations were based measuring risk associated with unprotected anal intercourse (UAI). Assuming that UAI increases risk of HIV transmission by approximately 80% with a significance level of 0.05 and a power of 80%, the minimum necessary sample size was 150 men[13]. Rounding up, the planned sample size was 200 for each of the three sites for a total of 600 men.

Given the lack of gay venues, recruitment was done through snowball sampling. In Malawi, 20 seeds were identified by the local CBO, Center for Development of People (CEDEP), and each of the seeds recruited either 9 or 10 participants resulting in a total sample size of 202. In Namibia, 20 seeds were identified by the local CBO, the Rainbow Project (TRP) and through chain-referral recruited 20 participants each for a total sample size of 218. In Botswana, the partner was the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), who recruited 10 seeds. However, ultimately only 117 MSM were accrued in Botswana because of difficulty in accessing this population and significant delays in the local approval processes.

HIV Screening
Saliva samples were obtained for anonymous rapid HIV screening among interviewees. Oral fluid HIV was done testing using the OraSure Oraquick HIV-1/2 kit (Orasure Technologies, Bethlehem, PA, USA), licensed by the US FDA, with a sensitivity of 99.1% for oral fluid (compared to 99.7% with serum), and a specificity of 99.6% with oral fluid (compared to 99.9% with serum) [14]. This HIV screen was for study purposes, not for confirmative diagnosis of HIV infection: participants were encouraged to seek appropriate venues for HIV counseling and testing.
Study Instrument and Interviews

A short structured survey instrument containing 45 questions was developed with a modified Delphi Method including experts in determinants of health, HIV epidemiology, and human rights. The instrument was piloted with MSM CBO members in each of the countries, and revised and locally adapted. Interviews took approximately 25 minutes to complete, and collected no identifiable information. After the interview, the oral fluid sample was obtained and the study participants were remunerated at different levels (between 5–10 USD) as determined by the partner CBO for their time and transportation costs. To maintain confidentiality and anonymity of the participants in the study, two separate rooms were required to ensure that the person reading the test result did not make direct contact with the respondent. Instead, non-traceable alphanumeric participant codes linked the HIV screening data to the surveys.

Statistical Analysis
Survey instruments were linked anonymously to HIV testing results using participant codes. Data were doubly entered into Microsoft Excel and subsequently imported to Stata 9.2 for analysis[15]. Univariate analyses included two-sample tests for differences in proportions, ?2 tests of independence, and logistic regression assessing the relationship between risk factors and HIV status. Backward elimination with a p-value set to 0.1 was used to determine which variables were included in the multivariate model. .In the multivariate logistic regression models, variables that were significantly (p<0.05) or moderately significantly (p<0.1) associated with HIV status were reported by presenting adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals.

The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Namibia, and the Ministry of Health in Botswana. Ethics approval was also sought from the National AIDS Council (NAC) in Malawi. While receipt of the application was confirmed on numerous occasions over many months, no answer was given. A thorough consultation with the MSM community in Malawi demonstrated overwhelming support to move forward with the study. And since the protocol was identical to that approved by the two other in-country human subjects committees, CEDEP employed an internal review mechanism and approved the study.

Sociodemographics and Sexual Practices of study participants

The participants tended to be young overall with mean ages of 24–26 in each of the three countries (Table 1). The majority had at least a secondary education, and approximately half were currently employed. There were high levels of bisexual concurrency observed, defined as concurrent regular partnerships with both men and women, but was most common in Malawi (p<0.05).

In all three countries, MSM had more male sexual partners than female sexual partners with a mean of between 1–1.5 female sexual partners in last 6 months, again positively skewed. MSM reported medians of between 3–4 male sexual partners over the preceding 6 months, though the distributions were positively skewed for all three countries with a minority of men reporting large number of male partners. Active bisexual practices–both male and female sexual partners in the same time frame was common across all three countries, but again, was most common in Malawi (p<0.05).

Disclosure of sexual orientation to family was more common in both Namibia and Botswana than Malawi (p<0.05). In Malawi, less than 10% of respondents disclosed their sexual orientation at any interaction with a health care worker, and the rate was below 25% in both Namibia and Botswana.

8.7% (38/435) of MSM admitted to injecting drugs, but more participants refused to answer this question than any other (18.1% – 97/536). The total sample size varied because participants refused to answer certain questions of the survey instrument.

In the pooled analysis, 44.7% (238/533) had used the internet to find a male sexual partner in the last 6 months, with the highest rates being in Botswana (p<0.05). Across all three sites, the biggest self-reported risk to one’s health was from HIV/AIDS, though 8.0% of the participants considered violence as the most important threat to their personal health. Compared to Malawi and Botswana, MSM in Namibia were less likely to consider HIV/AIDS as the biggest threat to their health (p<0.05), and most likely to consider violence as the single biggest threat to their health (p<0.05).

HIV Related Knowledge
Men were more likely to have received any information about how to prevent HIV infection from women than from men in all three sites (p<0.05) (Table 2). Men were more likely to know that HIV can be transmitted by vaginal intercourse than by anal intercourse in both Botswana and Malawi (p<0.05). In the pooled analysis, 85.3% (44/516) knew that HIV could be transmitted through injecting drug use. Only 70.3% of men in Malawi knew that HIV could be transmitted by these three modalities, whereas this was again higher in Botswana and Namibia (p<0.05), predominantly because of the dearth of knowledge about IDU.

Always using condoms among MSM with male or female partners was equivocal in Malawi and Botswana, but in Namibia, MSM were more likely to use condoms with men than women (p<0.01). In Namibia and Botswana, MSM were more likely to always use condoms with casual partners as compared to their regular sexual partners (p<0.05), whereas condom use between casual and regular partners was equivalent in Malawi. Of those who used lubricants during anal intercourse, a minority (38.2%, 130/340) overall used water-based lubricants as compared to petroleum-based products including petroleum jelly, fatty and body creams, with highest rates of WBL use in Botswana (50.7%, 36/71, p<0.05). Finally, only 3.3% (13/389) of the study sample were practicing safe anal sex as defined by always using condoms and water-based lubricants.

Transactional sex, as defined by anal intercourse in exchange for money or gifts with a casual partner, was common across all three sites. Overall, it was more common in Malawi (62.6% – 124/198), then Namibia (37.3%-81/217), and least prevalent in Botswana (29.3% – 34/116) (p<0.05). In Malawi, the sample was more likely to have received money/gifts for anal intercourse, but this difference was not found in the sample in Namibia or Botswana. MSM had been most commonly previously tested for HIV in Botswana (82.9% 97/117), followed by Namibia (59.4%- 129/217), and then Malawi (35.2% 69/196) (p<0.05). 18.5% (40/216) of MSM had ever been told by a health care worker that they had a STI in Namibia, whereas 8.5% (17/199) of MSM in Malawi had received this diagnosis similar to 9.4% (11/117) of MSM in Botswana.

Human Rights Contexts
Human rights abuses among MSM in the study sample were prevalent across all three countries. Between 5–10%, depending on the site, of the study participants had been denied housing in the past for reasons other than the ability to pay (Table 3). Being afraid to seek health services because of sexual orientation was reported by 17.6% (35/199) in Malawi, 18.3% (40/218) in Namibia, and 20.5% (24/117) in Botswana. While having been denied health care was less common with a pooled prevalence of 5.1% (27/533), disclosing sexual orientation to a health care worker was significantly associated with having been denied health care (OR 4.2,95% CI 1.9–9.3).

MSM reported being afraid to walk down streets in their own community most commonly in Botswana , but also to a lesser extent in Malawi and in Namibia (p<0.05). Overall 42.1% (222/527) of MSM answered yes to any of these markers of human rights violation. 12.2% (65/533) of the total sample indicated that they had been physically abused by a government or police official, with the highest rates in Namibia (p<0.05). Finally, 11.4% (61/534) of the sample reported ever having been raped by another man, with similar rates across the three sites.

Blackmail or extortion on the basis of sexual orientation or behavior was quite prevalent in the sample with an overall rate of 21.2%. In the pooled analysis, univariate associations with blackmail included having either paid or received money or gifts for casual sex (p<0.01); having told a member of the family of one’s sexual orientation (p<0.01); and having a told a clinic or health care worker of one’s sexual orientation (p<0.05), and not having had an HIV test in the preceding 6 months (p = 0.06) (data not shown). Multivariate analysis was completed adjusting for these covariates and blackmail was significantly associated with having taken part in transactional sex (aOR 2.5,95%CI 1.6–3.8), not having had a HIV test in last 6 months (aOR 0.56,95%CI 0.3–1.0), having disclosed same sex behavior to a member of the immediate or extended family (aOR 2.3,95% CI 1.4–3.6), but not to health care workers (aOR 0.9,95%CI 0.5–1.6).

Associations with HIV Infection
The overall HIV prevalence was 17.4% (93/536); however, there was significant variation of HIV prevalence with increasing age (Table 4). The HIV prevalence among those between the age of 18 and 23 was 8.3% (20/241), then 20.0% (42/210) among those 24–29, and 35.7% (30/84) among those older than 30. Overall, 23.7% (22/93) were aware of their HIV status, though this varied significantly between countries (p<0.05). In Malawi, more than 95% were unaware of their status, whereas in Botswana 76.3% were unaware and in Namibia, 41.8% were unaware of their status.

Univariate predictors varied between countries and can been seen in Table 5. In the pooled analysis, increasing age, being employed, not always wearing condoms with men, casual and regular partner, having been diagnosed with an STI, and having had transactional sex were significantly associated with HIV (p<0.05). Furthermore, self-reporting as homosexual or bisexual compared to heterosexual was associated with HIV (p = 0.06). In the multivariate model, ever having been diagnosed with an STI, being older than 25 (aOR 4.0, 95% CI 2.0–8.0) and not always wearing condoms (aOR 2.6, 95% CI 1.3–4.9) were significantly associated with being infected with HIV in the pooled analysis (Table 6). Country-specific associations also included having been diagnosed with an STI was strongly linked to being HIV-positive (aOR 33.7, 95% CI 3.4–148.2) in Botswana and having used the internet to find male sexual partners in Malawi (aOR 3.6 95% CI1.0–13.7).

This is the first study to investigate HIV status and risks for HIV infection among MSM in Namibia, Botswana, and Malawi. It is also the first attempt, to our knowledge, to evaluate the human rights contexts among MSM and to link individual level rights abrogation to HIV biological outcomes in the African context.

Overall, HIV rates were substantial, and risks for HIV infection from sex with both were men and women were common. The participants were generally young, though there was a significant association between HIV and age. Excluding the few men above the age of 49, overall more than one-third (35.7%, 95%CI 26.3–46.4) of MSM between the ages of 30–49 were HIV infected. These data suggest that this is not a new epidemic of HIV among African MSM which is spreading more rapidly among younger MSM, as has been seen observed among MSM in other settings such as Russia [16]. Because younger men were much less likely to be HIV infected, prevention programs targeting younger MSM in these populations could have marked potential for avoiding future infections. All possible combinations of biomedical and behavioural interventions need to be evaluated including those directed at MSM who are already HIV seropositive[17]. While very little is known about the benefit of targeted HIV prevention programming among MSM in Africa, in other contexts these approaches are known to be very effective in decreasing unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) [18], [19]. Prevention research and optimization of existing prevention tools for MSM are a clear public health priority for Southern Africa.

Approximately two-thirds of MSM had received any information about preventing HIV infection from other men, which was higher than expected. However, given that these men were largely recruited from within the same networks of men who are served by these CBOs, this likely overestimates the men exposed to this information in each country. Basic knowledge and condom access and availability are necessary for increased condom usage, but not sufficient. Recent studies have demonstrated that African MSM are less likely to have UAI if they use water-based lubricants (WBL), have been counseled about the risks of UAI, and more likely to have UAI if they regularly drink alcohol or do not know that HIV can be transmitted via anal intercourse [8], [10]. Understanding condom use among MSM in the African context is especially relevant as in all three countries, not always wearing condoms was highly predictive of being HIV positive. If safe sex is defined as the usage of WBL in addition to always wearing condoms, then less than 1 in 20 MSM practiced safe sex in this study. The more common use of oil-based products, including vaseline and body/fatty creams appears partly due to cost and partly to availability. Increasing the availability of affordable and practical WBL should be a key focus of prevention strategies.

A significant proportion of MSM self-identified as either heterosexual or bisexual, and many were married or had at least one female sexual partner in the preceding six months. These results were consistent with a previous knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions study of MSM in Malawi[20]. Concurrency of sexual relationships, which has been posited by many investigators as a key driver of heterosexual transmission in this region, appears to be relevant to MSM as well[11], [12]. Some 17% of men overall were in concurrent stable relationships with men and women and over half of the respondents had both male and female sexual partners in previous 6 months, suggesting that concurrency of sexual relationships which include both same and opposite sex partnerships may be an under—appreciated component of HIV spread in this region.

Approximately one tenth of men reported the injection of illegal drugs. There is an increasing appreciation that IDU behavior is also a reality in the African context, and more work is needed to better characterize this risk and its relationship to sexual risk exposures among African men [21].

The use of the internet to find male sexual partners was common across all three countries with nearly half of the respondents reporting using the internet for this purpose. In settings where homosexuality is criminalized and the police harass MSM, with no open venues for gay people to congregate, the internet has preceded the development of openly gay physical venues. Given the hidden nature of this population, the internet may represent a powerful tool in efficiently accessing and delivering HIV prevention education to these men [22].

Self-reported sexual orientation as homosexual or bisexual compared to heterosexual was significantly associated with HIV. While not explored here, this differential risk between identities may relate to sexual positioning, and will be relevant to HIV prevention programming [23]. Disclosure of sexual orientation to either any one member of their immediate or extended family, or any one health care worker was very low. These are hidden populations of men, currently only accessible for study and prevention programming through sexual and social networks with other MSM. In Kenya, where being MSM has become more of an accepted identity, the MSM community continues to evolve a gay identity and become more socially visible [24]. While there is a real risk for backlash, the self-identification of these men and community development may allow for better dissemination of education and prevention measures.

This study served as an assessment of human rights contexts for MSM in these countries. The results are a powerful reminder of the level of stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses that these men face in their everyday lives, including being denied housing and healthcare, being afraid to walk down the streets of one’s community, or being afraid to seek health care services. Though each of these rights abrogation likely limit access to HIV preventive services, none were significantly associated with HIV at the individual level. This could have been because abrogations were so common that ceiling effects made attribution difficult, as well as the fact that country sample sizes were small. However, having disclosed sexual orientation to family members was significantly associated with blackmail, and, having disclosed sexual orientation to a health care provider was significantly associated with having been denied health care. In the short term, these two factors will continue to limit disclosure of sexual orientation. In addition, those who reported blackmail were also less likely to have been tested for HIV in last 6 months. These structural barriers to available health care services will limit the efficacy of any interventions targeting individual level determinants of HIV transmission among MSM and must arguably, be mitigated to effectively decrease HIV incidence [25].

There are several limitations to this cross-sectional study. Resources and the constraints of working with small CBOs in these rights constrained environments limited the scale and scope of these probe studies. Due to the nature of the study we were unable to establish directions of causality. There are known biases in questionnaire-based estimates of sexual violence [26]. Specifically, using narrowly defined terms of sexual violence such as rape in a study instrument, as was done in this study, may underestimate its prevalence. The study samples are convenience samples generated by use of chain-referral techniques rather than population-based samples, which is a key limitation with this study methodology and limit the generalizability of the results to the wider population of MSM in respective countries. This problem, referred to as homophily, will likely be best addressed by larger respondent-driven sampling (RDS) studies, and by venue-time sampling approaches, where feasible[27]. Even with RDS or venue-based sampling, there will be biases in the sample recruited and calculated estimates, though likely of lesser magnitude than when using convenience samples. Non-random sampling may also have overestimated the level of HIV-related knowledge seen in the results. Finally, MSM tend to congregate in urban areas, which is why recruitment took place in urban centers; again, this may limit generalizability.

One conclusion of this research perhaps bears stating openly: MSM exist in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana, and are at high risk for HIV infection and human rights abuses. Piot et al. recently published a call to action for HIV prevention indicating that each country should appropriate HIV prevention expenditures in an evidence-based manner [28]. To date, there have been no dedicated government expenditures funding evidence-based and targeted HIV prevention programs for MSM in these three countries. To comprehensively address the HIV epidemic, African national AIDS strategies should allocate funds based on evidence such as presented here, ensuring that the right to health care is respected for all. Community partners willing and able to do this challenging work also exist, and supporting these partners and including them in HIV/AIDS fora in country and internationally is likely critical to the success of prevention, treatment, and care programs in these countries.

We would like to acknowledge all of the community groups who continue to provide front-line human rights advocacy and health services for MSM in Africa, often with very limited funding and significant personal risk. The authors would like to acknowledge all of the study staff belonging to the following organization: Lesbians and Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), The Center for Development of People (CEDEP) in Malawi, and The Rainbow Project (TRP) in Namibia. We would also like to thank the team at IGLHRC-Africa for providing ongoing support to the community members. Benaifer Badha and Christina Alexander of the Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) at OSI were responsible for duplicate data entry. Thoko Budaza, Sisonke Msimang, and Vicci Tallis of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa provided significant administrative support to each of the community partners as well as input into study design and the questionnaire. Joseph Amon of Human Rights Watch and Sam Avrett of amfAR also provided significant input into the study questionnaire. Finally, the authors would like to thank Sue Simon and Heather Doyle, founding and active director of SHARP, respectively, for being a driving force in initiating this work and providing ongoing support for this work and our partners.
Author Contributions

Conceived and designed the experiments: SB GT FM EU SI FD CB. Performed the experiments: GT FM EU SI FD. Analyzed the data: SB EU SI. Wrote the paper: SB CB. Acted as the Study Coordinator: FD

May 10, 200 – The New York Times

The Other Malawi, an Africa in Microcosm

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Beyond the shores of Lake Malawi, known for boutique eco-resorts and well-heeled international tourists, there’s another Malawi — a whole country, if a tiny one, of chaotic and lively urban centers, green hills, tea plantations, high mountains and game parks blessedly free of safari jeep traffic jams. When Madonna first showed interest in adopting a child from this wedge of a nation between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, Americans scrambled to find it on a map. If reporters, or travel agents, remembered anything about it at all, it was the lake, the third-largest freshwater body in Africa, increasingly popular as a remote getaway from Europe and the United States. But in just a few days of driving in southern Malawi, covering about 400 miles in total, the traveler can find a compact experience embracing much of what the wider world thinks of as intrinsically African.

Although the roads can sometimes be rough, in general the country proves an easy trip; English is widely spoken, in addition to vernacular languages like Chichewa, and Malawi boasts a vibrant, open democracy that hands out visas to American travelers on arrival. The jumping-off point is Blantyre. My wife and I have started our Malawi treks there, taking time out to sightsee while she worked in the country doing medical research.

“Blantyre is like Malawi’s New York,” one Malawian friend told me, boasting of its commercial and cultural energy (and contrasting it with the politics-first capital, Lilongwe). Well, not exactly. In the daytime, Blantyre’s crowded streets throb: Malawi contains 14 million people in its cramped land area. Vendors hawk avocadoes, bananas and cellphone cards, edging up to the windows of your car; traffic police try to stop wild drivers. But by 6 in the evening, the city turns quiet as most Malawians head home to an early dinner.

Still, with its hilly topography and a sizable expatriate population, Blantyre boasts several “Out of Africa”-esque restaurants, where you can sit on an open-air terrace and sip a late afternoon Malawi-style gin and tonic, sweeter and more fragrant than the American version.

Earlier this year at Chez Maky’s, in the lush hills just outside downtown, we joined Malawian businesspeople unwinding for the day with gin or a cup of homegrown coffee. Though it hasn’t exactly colonized Starbucks, Malawi’s mzuzu coffee, with a chocolaty, fruity flavor, holds its own with better-known African cups of joe. From a neighboring residence, local music, with lyrics in Chichewa and jangling bells that resemble calypso, filtered into the restaurant. Waiters dropped by to chat, constantly bending over to play with our 8-month-old baby, Caleb. Not for nothing is Malawi called “the warm heart of Africa” by many Malawians, as well as by the tour companies that promote it.

From Blantyre, the Thyolo region lies about 25 miles southeast on a good, though winding, road. Everywhere in Malawi, it’s advisable to hire a car and driver (for about $30 a day) rather than to try to travel on your own in a rental car. Traffic weaves wildly, and a smooth paved surface can suddenly turn rough. On one of our trips, we were on a major highway and hit a detour that suddenly took us on a rutted dirt track through the center of a village of tiny thatched huts, their occupants obviously surprised to find traffic barreling through their town.

Thyolo, home to tea plantations, reminds me of Sri Lanka’s famed tea-growing highlands. On a colonial map of the country that I once bought in Blantyre, the British, who claimed the country as part of their empire until 1964, identified only the parts of Malawi suitable for coffee and tea cultivation, as if the rest of the nation did not exist.

The road winds and meanders up through rich green hills toward the plantations. Several of the larger plantations, like Satemwa Tea Estate, welcome overnight visitors, housing them in traditional planters’ bungalows. We stopped near one of the larger plantations to hike, with permission, through its grounds, and passed small bungalows, rows of tea bushes and Malawian women working the fields with woven baskets on their backs. Some toted additional baggage — babies tied on their backs with traditional Malawian chitenge, brightly patterned cloth. In the distance, Mount Mulanje, a sheer, rocky 9,800-foot peak studded with cliffs and small waterfalls, towered over the Thyolo region.

Heading north from Blantyre, in one trip you can pack in two of the country’s biggest attractions: the famous lake and Liwonde National Park. It’s about 75 miles to the park, where, by the banks of the Shire River, Malawi is restoring game populations devastated by British hunters and, later, local poachers.

Few tourists visit Liwonde, and it retains a wildness tough to find in neighboring nations where animals have become almost conditioned to seeing tourists. Game-watching here is in the old-fashioned style, with no animals accustomed to performing. If you’re not on a paid safari tour, the best way to see the park is to take a boat, provided by Mvuu Camp, the main lodge in the park, along the Shire River. You’ll get no guarantees: you may see hordes of game or you may see nothing at all. Still, even in rainy season from December to March, which is not the best for seeing game, the animals don’t exactly hide: hippos wallow in the water and elephants slowly meander by the banks. In dry season, you’re likely to see antelope, zebra and crocodiles.

Roughly 80 miles north of Liwonde, you’ll come to Lake Malawi. It boasts the widest diversity of fish of any freshwater body in the world, and the shore, with rocky outcroppings, pristine sand and an occasional palm against the blue water, resembles an Indian Ocean beach. Lake Malawi has become a snorkeler’s paradise and, increasingly, a diving destination — divers can explore the lake without worrying about sharks, strong currents or other ocean dangers. (The few crocodiles mostly inhabit rivers feeding the lake rather than the lake itself.)

Still, arriving one day in January at our hotel, the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge, we found not a single other guest on the beach, and only local fishermen rowing in the water, searching for chambo, a local cichlid fish. (Our driver came with us, and stayed in a nearby motel.) The next day, we sat alone for dinner in the hotel’s beachside restaurant, staring out at a rainbow and tearing apart kebabs of grilled fresh kampango, a local fish with a meaty texture reminiscent of halibut.

Most Lake Malawi hotels offer a variety of water sports — sailing, paddleboats, snorkeling, diving, yachting and more. Sunbird Nkopola Lodge offers boat cruises on the lake. But the main attraction for us was doing plenty of nothing. In our four days there, we established a routine: wake up late to blazing sun and dip our toes in the water; grab some grilled lake fish for lunch and then wait for the late-afternoon wind and rainstorms, which cooled us down and brought mist over the shore and an occasional rainbow. At night, we had drinks at nearby Club Makolola, which has manicured grounds and an even finer stretch of sand than Nkopola’s — powdery like fresh snow and at such a wide stretch of lake that the opposite shore can barely be seen — but weren’t tempted by the food, which runs to uninspired dishes like chicken supreme.

Back at Nkopola, we ate more imaginative dinners as dancers from the nearby village, who showed up most nights, pounded drums and shook a thick, hairy mask to an insistent traditional rhythm and a singsong call. At one point, the dancers stepped up their game, literally — they began shaking and writhing atop stilts until diners tipped them a few hundred kwacha ($5 or so). After they left, the lake turned almost eerily quiet, its soft lapping rocking Caleb to sleep.

From Lake Malawi, we headed back south to Zomba, which is both a tablelike high plateau and a town at the base. Zomba has a far different microclimate from either the hot Lake Malawi or the humid city. In colonial times, Zomba city was the country’s capital, and it has a laid-back, yesteryear feel, with old clock towers and British-style homes decaying from years of monsoon, now housing mostly Malawians. On the road outside the city, standing in a typical rainy-season downpour, women sold fresh-grilled corn, woven baskets and simple carvings — wooden heads with basic holes for eyes, striking in their starkness.

We drove up the plateau, and the scenery changed dramatically. Rain dripped from everything, making the ground spongy and giving the vegetation an emerald, Irelandesque hue. Men carrying baskets of fresh local berries surrounded our truck, bargaining for a sale. At the summit, we stared out in all directions from the Sunbird Ku Chawe hotel, reminiscent in its design of a British hill station resort. Shivering from the sudden cold weather at the summit after 85-degree heat at the base, we looked over hills dotted with thatched huts.

In just a few minutes, we knew, we’d have to head back to Blantyre. We walked to one last lookout staring out over Malawi and enjoying the still quiet of the mountaintop.

Uncrowned Game Parks And Diving With No Sharks

How To Get There And Get Around
Air Malawi flies to Lilongwe and Blantyre from Johannesburg several times a week, and South African Airways also has flights. Multiple carriers serve routes from the United States to South Africa. In a recent search, flights on South African Airways from New York to Johannesburg started at $900 round-trip. The Johannesburg to Blantyre leg costs about $400 round-trip.

Though it is possible to rent a car in Malawi, it is far safer to hire a car and driver, especially since the local police are notorious for stopping vehicles to extract “fines” for minor infractions. Try SS Rent a Car to find an S.U.V. and driver (265-1-822-836; The vehicle costs about $100 a day and the driver costs a basic $20 a day plus any overtime, and $20 for any overnight stay.

The Malawi Tourism Guide ( has general tourist information, and the British company Tribes Travel (44-1728-685-971; offers Malawian itineraries.

In Blantyre, at the Protea Hotel Ryalls (2 Hannover Avenue; 265-1-820-955;, double rooms start at $230. Although the local currency is the kwacha, U.S. dollars are widely used for more expensive transactions. Hotel prices are usually quoted in dollars. At Chez Maky (Kabula Hill Road, past the Seventh Day Adventist Church; 265-1-833-764), lunch for two is roughly 3,000 kwacha (about $20 at 148 kwacha to the dollar).

Blantyre has few tourist attractions, but nearby Limbe has a weekday market worth a stroll; vendors sell products from homegrown avocadoes to Chinese DVDs. Do not walk around in Blantyre at night.

In the Thyolo tea-planting highlands, the tea estate Satemwa (265-1-473-500;, which dates back to the 1920s, allows visitors who ask permission to walk on its property and explore. There are tea and coffee factory tours as well. The plantation is renovating its lodging, and intends to reopen in July with rates still to be set.

Liwonde National Park
Touring at Liwonde is best arranged through Tribes Travel or another tour company. Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Wilderness Lodge offers comfortable, basic chalets by the Shire River ($430 beginning next month), as well as simple tents ($250). Tribes Travel runs an 11-day trip to Malawi, focusing on Liwonde and other game parks, that costs around $6,200 a couple.

Many operators in Blantyre run short trips to Liwonde, but Mvuu is the only lodge in the park, and also the best operator for boat trips on the Shire River and longer, overnight stays in the park. Driving safaris are also available from Mvuu.

Lake Malawi
Water sports at the lake include boating, diving and snorkeling. Most resorts offer these activities, but if you stay at a simpler guesthouse or lodge you can still find outfitters. For sailing, Danforth Yachting (265-99-996-0077; organizes charter trips ($200 per person a day with a four-person minimum). Kayak Africa (27-21-783-1955; runs biking and kayak excursions.

The Sunbird Nkopola Lodge on Lake Malawi (265-1-580-444; has double rooms starting at $121. At the main restaurant, dinner for two with drinks will cost roughly 4,000 kwacha.

The Sunbird Ku Chawe on top of Mount Zomba offers stunning views over the surrounding rolling hills and double rooms starting at $125 (265-1-514-211;

The best way to see the region is to have your car drop you at the top of the plateau, at the Sunbird. From there, you can take a slow stroll down the road to the bottom, stopping to explore short side paths into the forest, and arranging to have your driver pick you up when you tire.

August 18, 2009 – IPS

Malawi: High-Risk Sex Among Those Who "Do Not Exist"

by Christi van der Westhuizen
Cape Town (IPS) – A study on men having sex with men (MSM) in Malawi shows that, as elsewhere in the developing world, this vulnerable group is at greater risk of contracting HIV and AIDS than the general population. Moreover, their risk status is exacerbated as governments fail to target them for health services or information to stem HIV transmission. The study was presented at the human rights conference of the recent World Outgames, held in the Danish capital from Jul. 25 to Aug. 1. At the same session it transpired that MSM in developing countries are on average 19 times more likely to be HIV positive than the general population.

In Kenya, in East Africa, 38 percent of MSM are HIV positive, compared to six percent of the general population, according to data provided by the AIDS Fund of Denmark. In the West African country of Senegal, some 22 percent of MSM are HIV positive compared to less than two percent of the general population.

In the southern African state of Malawi HIV prevalence is at 21 percent among the respondents – significantly higher than the national prevalence of 14 percent. This was found in a study aimed at establishing HIV prevalence and the sexual behaviour of MSM, a minority group about which very little research has been done, especially in Malawi.

The AIDS Fund draws attention to the hidden nature of sex between men as they are "often hounded and have to live their lives in secret". In Malawi, homosexuality has been criminalised and sex between men can land you in prison for between five and 14 years, including or excluding corporal punishment. It is thought that some men do not identify themselves as gay or bisexual and persist with relationships with women in order to camouflage their same-sex orientation.

The study, conducted in 2007, points out that politicians and other leaders in Malawi "prefer to project the view that homosexuality is non-existent in the country". Because of this enforced in-the-closet existence, little information exists and data is hard to come by. MSM are fearful about being identified – to such an extent that the researchers found it difficult to conduct the study. "The men were reluctant to attend the workshops that we conducted as part of the study. Some did not want to be interviewed either," one of the authors of the study, Gift Trapence, told IPS in an interview.

Even among those who were willing to participate in the study, extremely low levels of disclosure to their immediate family (seven percent) and extended family (13 percent) were recorded. Trapence is the programmes manager at the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) in Blantyre, Malawi, which is human rights organisation that addresses the needs and challenges of minority groups such as gays, lesbians and men who have sex with men.

The other institutions involved in the study were the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi, Zomba; the New York-based Open Society Institute’s sexual health and rights project; and the department for epidemiology and the centre for public health and human rights, both at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, U.S. Trapence told IPS that, "the prevalence of HIV is high among MSM because there is no intervention to specifically address this group. They have a knowledge gap and they are also not able to access condoms."

This corresponds with research that showed that "the right to health is denied to many same-sex practising Africans on a regular basis-both directly and through a series of related rights deprivations and violations. "The actions and inactions of governments, health care providers and foreign donors contribute to HIV vulnerability when same-sex practising people face discrimination in obtaining health care, safer-sex supplies, information or treatment…" This is according to Cary Johnson, the head of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in the book "Off the Map".

Trapence argued that some policy makers are moving towards acknowledging that MSM exist but politicians, religious leaders and the society at large still find such sex "unacceptable", hence the invisibility of MSM. Given the negative consequences of official ignorance, CEDEP has a specific approach to address the prejudice among decision-makers. "Politicians don’t understand things. This is a rights issue. We work with them – rather than competing with them – and use the data to make them understand what we are talking about," Trapence explained.

The study, which was conducted among 200 men, found high-risk behaviour: some 54 percent had a boyfriend while 47 percent were in a relationship with a woman, including marriage. In all, 56 percent of the men had multiple female sexual partners with an average of 12 women during the most recent six month period. Some 75 percent had multiple male sexual partners with an average of 14 men during the most recent six month period. The study found that only 1.5 percent has ever been told by a health professional that they are HIV positive while 77 percent had never been asked by a health professional to undergo an HIV test. Only 10 percent had ever disclosed to a health professional that they have sex with men.

More of the respondents thought that anal sex between a man and a woman could transmit HIV (96 percent) than between a man and a man (89 percent). Therefore, a high number of respondents also did not know that HIV can spread via anal sex. Almost half of the respondents had never accessed information on how to prevent HIV transmission during sex with a man. Some 18 percent of the respondents were "afraid to seek health services" while 3.5 percent had been denied health care.

In all, 35 percent always used a condom during casual sex with men; 22 percent sometimes; and 10 percent never. During casual sex with women, 26 percent always used a condom; 12.5 percent sometimes; five percent rarely; and two percent never. During sex with a female partner or wife, about 20 percent always used a condom; 25.5 percent sometimes; 7.5 percent rarely and 5.5 percent never.

September 15, 2009 – Reuters

Gay rights way to fight AIDS in Malawi-official

Lilongwe(Reuters) – Malawi must recognise the rights of its gay population to be able to step up its fight against AIDS, a senior government official said on Tuesday. In a first public government comment on homosexuality in the conservative African country, Mary Shawa, secretary for nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the president’s office, said Malawi would not be able to fight the virus without giving gays access to HIV and AIDS services.

"There is a need to incorporate a human rights approach in the delivery of HIV and AIDS services to such risk groups like men who have sexual intercourse with men if we have to fight AIDS," she said, opening a two-day conference on HIV/AIDS. The Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), an organisation working with homosexuals, said the HIV prevalence rate was at 25 percent among the country’s gays. "The voices and the rights of these people are critical in the fight against AIDS," said Gift Trapensi, head of the CEDEP.

AIDS has killed more than 800,000 people in Malawi since the first case was reported in 1985 and left more than one million orphans. Preventative campaigns have helped reduce the overall prevalence rate to 12 percent from 14 percent, and reduced the number of people dying from HIV related illnesses by 70 percent.

Three years ago the Anglican Church sent pro-gay rights Bishop Nick Henderson to head a diocese in rural Malawi. The congregation did not accept him and protests led to the death of a church member. (Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Janet Lawrence) (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit)

October 14 2009 – RH Reality Check

Religion and Stigma Fan HIV Epidemic in Malawi

by Ramona Vijeyarasa
In a first for Malawi, Mary Shawa, secretary for nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the president’s office, has initiated a heated debate on the rights of gay men in Malawi. During her opening address at a two-day conference on HIV/AIDS, Shawa advocated for a human rights approach to the delivery of services for people living with HIV/AIDs. Her opinion [1] that the fight against HIV will not be won without a change in attitude towards risk groups, such as men who have sex with men, has unsurprisingly sparked controversy in the conservative African country.

Malawi has some of the harshest laws in all of Africa criminalizing homosexuality. Sex between men is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment [2], although it appears that female-tofemale sexual relations are legal [2]. Only several months ago, in August of this year, the National Assembly passed a constitutional amendment –banning same sex marriage [3]. The ban follows an anti-gay campaign [4], jointly initiated by Christian and Muslim leaders, in response to advocacy by Malawi NGOs demanding repeal of the Penal Code criminalizing homosexuality and pushing for gay marriage. A member of parliament, Edwin Banda, even proposed that the constitution should include a clause [3] stipulating that Malawi is a "God fearing nation", with homosexuality deemed ungodly, a proposal that was later rejected. Other stories from Malawi evidence how religion acts as a barrier to better protections for the rights of homosexuals. According to one report [5], when Anglican Bishop Nick Henderson was sent to head a diocese in rural Malawi, he was rejected by the congregation for his pro-gay stance and subsequent protests led to the death of a church member.

Unfortunately, what this new debate means is that homosexuality is once again being discussed in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, possibly furthering pre-existing negative perceptions and notions of deviance that exist towards homosexuality in Malawi. At the same time, it is unquestionable that the higher risk facing Malawi’s homosexual population, formerly named as “invisible[6],” means this group must be included information campaigns and guaranteed enhanced access to services.

In November of last year, Malawi held its third annual testing week [7]. Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Estimates [8] range from an 11.8 per cent adult prevalence rate found in the 2004 Demographic and Health Survey to a 14.1 per cent prevalence rate estimated by UNAIDS in 2005. Yet, a study [9] released in Copenhagen in July at the World Outgames [10], involving 200 Malawi men, 75 per cent of whom had multiple male sexual partners, revealed a prevalence rate among respondents of around 21 per cent, an obvious difference with the national rate. The study’s findings provide significant evidence to back Shawa’s comments about the need to better target homosexual men. Among respondents, only 1.5 per cent had ever been told by a health professional that they were HIV positive, with 77 per cent never having been asked by a health professional to undergo an HIV test. The impact of criminality and stigmatisation is also revealed by the fact that only 10 per cent has informed a health professional that they have sex with men. The 2007 study also revealed that politicians and leaders in Malawi prefer to promote the idea that homosexuality does not exist in Malawi, making Shawa’s comments all the more remarkable.

More generally, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) [11], there are around 930,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi, accounting for 12 per cent of people aged between 12 and 49 years of age in Malawi. 60,000 people die from the disease every year. It can only be hoped that Shawa’s comments foster increased, open public debate about some of the cultural causes that continue to spread the virus among men and women or foster stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS. This includes early marriage [12] between young teenage girls and older infected men as well as other forms of sexual exploitation against young women, including forced sex [12] in exchange for passing school imposed by male teachers. It is, in fact, particularly important that the rights of women living with HIV are not lost in this debate, given that 2004 figures [13] reveal that women represent 56.8 per cent of the adult HIV positive population. The 2004 report of the UN Secretary General’s Task Force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa [14] reveals that marriage is a risk factor, with 17.5% of married Malawi men having had extramarital sex in the 12 months prior to the study. The lack of recognition of marital rape also does not help. Many Malawi women are brought up to believe that a woman should not refuse to have sex with her husband. Additionally, as Avert [15] notes, the practice of ‘wife inheritance’, where a widow is married to a relative of her husband upon his death, also increases risks of HIV infection were AIDs was the cause of death of the previous husband.

It remains to be seen whether Shawa’s comments will have an impact on the rights of gay men in Malawi or the lives of people living with HIV in the country more generally. Unquestionably, given the climate, Shawa deserves high praise for putting on the table for public discussion the centrality of human rights to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

November 17, 2009 – Nyasa Times

Married people practicing homosexuality in Malawi says official

Secretary to the Office of the President, responsible for HIV/AIDS and Nutrition, Dr. Mary Shaba, has said homosexuality is practiced in Malawi by mostly married people who have “wives and children”. Shaba was speaking on Capital Radio’s Straight Talk programme on Tuesday evening. Radio host, Brian Banda who poses no hold-barred questions, asked Shaba if homosexuality exists in the country and what impact it has to HIV/Aids.

“The challenge is that we don’t know who is doing homosexuality at the moment. The people are hidden, how do you reach out to somebody you don’t know. A report is yet to come out but one came out during the HIV research report. It did indicate that it exists and it did indicate that reverence rate of the group that was interviewed was over 30 percent of HIV,” she said.

“Yes it exists but the point is the majority of those who are practicing homosexuality in Malawi are also married. They have wives,” said Shaba. “So there are in a group of the concurrent multiple sexual partners.” She added: “Some have wives, they even have children.” Asked by radio presenter where she is getting the facts, Shaba said: “The results of the survey that was done reveals that.” Shaba said the matter of homosexuality needs to be looked at “more comprehensively” and should not be looked at HIV/Aids as a spring board but other aspects such as human rights.

Asked what the government and the President is doing to handle the issue of gays, Shaba said the country needs “a good packaging” on the matter. “You cannot bring the Head of State at this time. Some of these things at the moment they are still individualistic. Individualist in the sense that they are hidden. If things are hidden, you cannot bring the whole Head of State into this one,” she said.

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) recently proposed that the country should recognise homosexuality as one way of curbing HIV and AIDS. MHRC principal legal officer, Crispin Sibande, is on record saying Malawi laws, which outlaw sexual intercourse between people of the same sex, contravene the nation’s constitution and international conventions that guarantee equality and non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“There is nothing wrong with homosexuals, only that their sexual orientation is different,” Sibande said. According to a study conducted by the Malawi College of Medicine, in collaboration with the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), the HIV prevalence rate of male homosexuals stands at 21 per cent well above the national male adult rate which is at 9 per cent.

A gay rights group –Malawi Gay Rights Movement– was formed in the country and has been reportedly discussing with medical practitioners who can treat anal infections.

But Shaba could not commit herself on the issue of legalising homosexuality. “What does Malawi society say on homosexuality?” she said. “Well as an individual, honestly I would have problems to comment on this one. Why is it difficult legalising commercial sex workers?”

January 13, 2010 – PinkNews

Scottish MPs condemn arrest of gay Malawian men

by Jessica Geen
More than 20 members of the Scottish parliament condemned the arrest of two gay men in Malawi who held a wedding ceremony.
The motion was signed by members of all main parties and called for parliament to condemn the "illegal and homophobic arrests" of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. The couple are currently on trial and may face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Dundee West MSP Joe FitzPatrick, who introduced the motion, said that although Scotland does not have an official foreign policy role, he felt that parliament should speak up. He said: "Malawi is one of several African countries adopting increasingly homophobic attitudes, with Uganda having recently introducing anti-homosexual legislation including the death penalty and other repressive practices being introduced in Gambia. Apart from the human rights violations, and the discriminatory nature of the contraventions, it is likely that these retrograde and illegal moves will considerably set back efforts to combat the massive problem of HIV AIDS in the African sub-continent."

The motion also calls for an end to police harassment of HIV educators and human rights defenders in the country. Lawyers acting for Monjeza and Chimbalanga have asked for a review of the country’s homosexuality ban. The couple were arrested on December 28th in Blantyre after holding a public ceremony. They are currently in custody in Chichiri prison.

Their legal team has asked for the case to be held before the Constitutional Court, but the presiding judge in Blantyre has said he will continue with the trial until the higher court accepts the case. Judge Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa agreed that a constitutional review could take place.

January 18, 2010 – The Washington Post

Malawi government defends gay couple’s prosecution

by Rapahel Tenthani – The Associated Press
Blantyre, Malawi – Malawi’s government said Monday that it is unmoved by international criticism of the trial of a gay couple charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency, felonies for which they could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

In a statement Monday, Malawi’s Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto made no apology for the laws that criminalize homosexual acts. He said Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were "clearly breaking the laws of Malawi."

"As government we cannot interfere in the court process," Thoto said. "We depend on our Western friends, yes, but we are a sovereign country." Forty percent of Malawi’s budget is funded by international donors. Monjeza, 26, and Chimbalanga, 20, have been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, the day they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious onlookers in this conservative southern African country. Hearings in the trial also have attracted crowds.

A verdict is expected next month.

Amnesty International has called for the couple’s immediate release. More than 20 members of the Scottish parliament have condemned the arrest, calling on their government to review its development aid package for Malawi. OutRage! – a gay rights group – has called on Britain to intercede on behalf of the gay couple. Mauya Msuku, the couple’s lawyer, said the laws under which Monjeza and Chimbalanga were charged were archaic and unconstitutional.

"The penal code criminalizes homosexuality or same-sex marriages but under the Bill of Rights in the new Constitution it is clearly stated that no one should be discriminated against on the basis of – among other things – sexual orientation," he said.

Msuku has asked Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo for a constitutional review. Munlo has yet to set the date for a Constitutional Court hearing. Recently, a group of Malawi human rights activists formed the Center for the Development of People to fight for the rights of homosexuals and other minorities.

In Africa, only South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage, and in South Africa the gap between the liberal constitution and societal attitudes can be wide. Uganda will soon debate a proposed law that would impose the death penalty on some gays, though Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and a Cabinet minister has called – so far unsuccessfully – for the bill to be scrapped.

January 19, 2010 – PinkNews

Malawi defends prosecution of gay couple

by Staff Writer,
Malawi’s government has defended the prosecution of a gay couple who had a wedding ceremony.
Information minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto said Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were "clearly breaking the laws of Malawi." He said: "Despite Malawi depending on international aid, the country is a sovereign country with its own laws and must not be influenced by the West in the running of its affairs of state."

Malawi Couple

Monjeze and Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28th after holding a wedding ceremony in Blantyre. They face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been remanded in custody after failing to secure bail.

Amnesty International has called for their release, saying the pair have committed no crime. The men’s lawyers are arguing that the prosecution is unconstitutional and have asked for a review of the country’s homosexuality laws. Their legal team has asked for the case to be held before the Constitutional Court, but the presiding judge in Blantyre has said he will continue with the trial until the higher court accepts the case.

The trial is expected to resume next week.

January 22, 2010 – Peter Tatchell

British MPs condemn Malawi gay arrests

EDM urges drop the charges, decriminalise same-sex relations

Twenty-nine British MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns Malawi’s arrest and current trial of two men, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who are accused of a homosexual relationship. They face up to 14 years in jail, and have already suffered abuse, humiliation and violence while being held on remand in Chichiri Prison, in the city of Blantyre. The EDM, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, also urges the dropping of all charges and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Malawi.

A copy of the EDM follows below.

See background to the Malawi arrests and trial here

"The men’s prosecution and the ban on homosexuality violate the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the Constitution of Malawi and of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold ," said Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage! Mr Tatchell has been working with Malawian friends to support the men on trial and to oppose their prosecution. He helped organise the EDM in the British Parliament.

"The EDM will be communicated to the Malawian High Commissioner in London. It will hopefully add to pressure for the acquittal of Steven and Tiwonge and for the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality by the Government of Malawi," Mr Tatchell added.

"We hope this parliamentary motion will send a strong signal from the House of Commons to the Malawian government that the criminalisation of consenting same-sex relations is a violation of human rights. Malawi’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have a right to privacy, equality, respect and dignity, under the country’s constitution and under international humanitarian law.

"Malawi is a sovereign nation and we respect its independence. But we hope that its government will recognise that this trial and the criminalisation of homosexuality are contrary to the human rights principles that Malawi has embraced since its transition from dictatorship to democracy.

"We appeal to the kindness and generosity of the Malawian people and government: please show mercy to Steven and Tiwonge and do not persecute your fellow Malawian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

"OutRage! supports the many Malawian people who oppose homophobia and the prosecution of these two men. It is encouraging to hear people in Malawi say: live and let live.

"Tiwonge and Steven have harmed no one. They should not be on trial," concluded Mr Tatchell.

February 3, 2010 – PinkNews

Malawi man arrested for putting up gay rights posters

by Staff Writer,
A Malawi man has been arrested for putting up gay rights posters. Peter Sawali, 21, was arrested last weekend when he was found putting the posters up on a main road in Blantyre. The posters, said to be expensively printed, read "gay rights are human rights".
Mr Sawali will be charged with "conduct likely to cause breach of peace,", a police spokeswoman told AFP. If convicted, he may be fined or jailed for up to three months.

Police are investigating how Mr Sawali obtained the posters. They believe he and other gay rights activists in Malawi may be sponsored by international organisations. The African country has laws prohibiting homosexuality and two men arrested on gross indecency charges in December are still in custody.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28th for holding a wedding ceremony. They have twice been denied bail and face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. They are pleading not guilty to the charges. Their case is set to resume this week and a simultaneous case has been filed by their lawyers in the constitutional court. The men’s lawyers are arguing that the prosecution is unconstitutional and have asked for a review of the country’s homosexuality laws.

February 10, 2010 – PinkNews

Malawi minister says gays must ‘come out in the open’

by Jessica Geen
A government minister in Malawi has said that gays must be more open – despite the fact they can be imprisoned for 14 years. Speaking after a police arrested 21-year-old Peter Sawali for putting up gay rights posters in Blantyre, deputy information minister Kingsley Namakhwa urged other gay people to come out. He told Afrique en Ligne: “As far as the Malawi government is concerned we only have two gays in Malawi – Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

“If there are others, let them come out in the open.” But he reiterated that any who did come would be arrested, in line with Malawi’s laws. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have become the faces of gay equality in the African country after they were arrested for holding a traditional wedding ceremony in December.

They have twice been denied bail and are pleading not guilty to charges of gross indecency. Their case is expected to resume soon and their lawyers are calling for a review of Malawi’s homosexuality laws, saying they violate the country’s constitution. Sawali avoided jail for putting up the posters and is serving 60 days of community service.

Police are investigating how he obtained the posters. They believe he and other gay rights activists in Malawi may be sponsored by international organisations.