World AIDS Day Message: "Today is World AIDS day: While we remember those lost to AIDS we must note that the goal to eradicate HIV/AIDS will never be met for as long as we criminalize sexuality!" Melanie Nathan, Executive Director African HRC.
On this World AIDS Day, the one thing that stands directly in the way of mitigating the stigma of HIV/AIDS and eradicating the virus, are the draconian laws, whether old penal codes or newly legislated, that criminalize sexuality.
In Africa 33 out of 54 countries criminalize homosexuality. Some of these countries are actively working to exclude LGBTI people from HIV services through anti-gay witch hunts, closure of facilities and banning of organizations which provide HIV services to LGBTI people. This all leads to fear and silence and the latter is lethal!
LGBTI refugees are often subject to rape and violence and we are finding that many in their struggle for survival are forced into sex work. We are seeing newly infected refugees. This should not be happening at this stage of the battle.
I had just moved from South Africa to the U.S.A. during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The next several years delivered an epidemic that was not something any of us had prepared for, anywhere. Our friends and family members started to die, on both continents.
This resulted in a display of strength of unified communities where our newfound activism changed our LGBTI communities. We were compelled to take care of our own. We had to build and organize ourselves in a productive and meaningful way and we did - and this served as a model for all our needs as a community thereafter.
We made a difference, a huge difference. We saved lives and we tenderly nurtured the last moments for the dying who had been deserted by terrified families, friends and professionals. Now the call in for help by African LGBT communities is very loud and the quesiton is - are we listening?
While the HIV/AIDS milieu has changed dramatically and mostly for the better, people are still stigmatized and in some places the number of infected individuals is still on the rise. The current anti-LGBTI situation in Africa is not helping!
Now as a global community, we must reinvigorate our unity and acknowledge and participate in the needs of Africa's LGBTI community. We must acknowledge Africa as an imperative frontier in out unity.
We all still need to respond vigorously to the needs!
Whatever continent you are on, we share this World AIDS Day, by remembering those who died, we share the grief of those who lost loved ones, and most importantly we reinvigorate our promise to de-stigmatize and eradicate the virus - here, there and everywhere! The African Human Rights Coalitionneeds you now!
Please consider a donation today to The African Human Rights Coalition, which works with LGBTI Africans from many countries, who are seeking safe shelter and exile from criminalizing laws.
PLEASE DONATE HERE - THANK YOU!