Namibia: Being a Sexual Minority in the Time of HIV-Aids

With an 18,8% estimated HIV-AIDS prevalence rate for the country, The Weekender asked few individuals from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gender and intersex (LGBTI) communities what they, in particular are doing to fight the pandemic.

“HIV is a great concern and should be regarded as a top priority whether you are heterosexual or belong to LGBTI community. We do not take this lightly and treat this as a matter of importance, as this is about the wellbeing of our people. That is why no matter how small our own campaigns, we as organisations try to encourage correct and consistent condom use, faithfulness and adherence to treatment at ground and community level” said Deyonce /Naris, a former radio presenter who is a Khaibasen community project co-founder.

“LGBTI people face stigma and discrimination (for their sexual orientation) and if one gets infected, the stigma becomes even more,” said Deyonce.

These two issues (stigma and discrimination) need to be dealt with, believe both Deyonce and Ricardo Amunjera, Mr Gay Namibia.

Negative attitudes and comments by health officials discourage LGBTI people from visiting health facilities at times for tests or STI screenings, says Lady B (not real name), a gay man diagnosed with HIV years ago. These sentiments are echoed by Amunjera.

There are few organisations that assist LGBTI positive people but mostly these operate in Windhoek and thus does not cover most of the other regions in the country.

A study on Men having sex with Men (MSM) by the Ministry of Health and Social Services is welcomed by sexual minorities as a means of progress towards touching on sensitive issues, which government has previously shied away from.

“Although this study excludes a larger part of LGBTI community, it is considered that MSM are at [higher] risk of contracting HIV,” Ricardo said.

Amunjera said that HIV is a universal concern and has never discriminated against the LGBTI community who have always been under a microscope for their sexual preferences in society.

Amunjera says that homosexuals sleeping around is a reality and it is also the same with heterosexual community, something Deyonce supports.

“For as long as I remember the homosexual community has been boxed in and deccorated with ridiculous labels … and [the victims of] horrible acts committed by their heterosexual counterparts in the name of religion and tradition.”

Imms Peters (not his real name) is a bisexual man from Swakopmund who says it’s easy to get a gay person for sex as they seem to have a higher sex drive than many heterosexuals.

“A few drinks or direct eye contact will get you in bed with a gay person,” he said.

“Homosexuals must stop this type of behaviour and learn to respect their bodies. Gays must stop living life carelessly,” he said.

“Dating many partners is never a good idea because of the very real risks of HIV-Aids and other STDs. It is really not worth it to put your health in danger in this way. Namibians should be responsible in their choices and be mindful of the possible consequences,” says psychologist Doctor Shaun Whittaker.

According to Whittaker, too many people only discover too late that the grass is never greener on the other side.

“There is no perfect relationship and it is usually the best option to stay with the partner you know already and to rather try to work things out. In any case, there are many benefits to remaining faithful in an intimate relationship. Trust, for instance, is a vital element in a companionship. To have a quality relationship, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, there should be commitment to one person,” says Whittaker.

Disowning of children for their sexual preference by families also helps increase the HIV rate in sexual minorities as they (disowned children) might used their bodies to solicit their wellbeing on the streets and get involved in risky sexual behaviour, says Deyonce, who speaks from experience.

“I was disowned at the age of 15 and left home and had to do sex- work.” Luckily for Deyonce, he did not contract HIV but knows a lot of friends who are now infected with the virus. It’s difficult, because having sex without a condom can earn gay sex workers up to N$1 000, said Deyonce.

“Talking about anything helps but personally I believe everyone must do what is best for them at any particular point, regardless of being HIV positive or when facing difficult situations,” says Ricardo.

by Clemans Miyanicwe
Source – All Africa