International Day Against Homophobia
17 May 2010
May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia. Homophobia is considered one of the main obstacles in implementing HIV prevention strategies. Of the 192 member states of the United Nations, 85 have laws that still criminalize homosexual behaviour and, in some of these countries, conviction can even result in the death penalty.
Speaking on the occasion, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said, “I urge all governments to take steps to eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgender populations. They must also create social and legal environments that ensure respect for human rights and enable universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”
Video message from UNAIDS Executive Director
At least 5-10% of HIV infections worldwide are estimated to occur through sex between men, though this figure varies considerably between countries and regions. Yet men who have sex with men continue to face discrimination from healthcare workers, other service providers, employers and the police. Discrimination prevents men who have sex with men from disclosing their sexual orientation, or reporting for HIV services. Consequently their vulnerability to infection is increased, and national data do not reflect the size of the HIV epidemic that is linked to same-sex behaviour involving men.
I urge all governments to take steps to eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgender populations .
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
Removing punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block effective responses to AIDS is one of UNAIDS’ 10 priority areas in the Joint Outcome Framework for 2009-2011. Another key priority of the Framework is also to empower men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people to protect themselves from HIV infection and to fully access antiretroviral therapy.
The 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) Declaration of Commitment on HIV/ AIDS adopted by all UN Member States emphasized the importance of “addressing the needs of those at the greatest risk of, and most vulnerable to, new infection as indicated by such factors as […] sexual practices.” In the 2006 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, governments committed to removing legal barriers and passing laws to protect vulnerable populations.
Many governments have not acknowledged that sex between men happens and that unprotected anal sex contributes to the transmission of HIV. Often if recognized, there is insufficient political will, funding and programming to address it.
The Global Fund is fully committed to addressing inequities for the benefit of MSM and transgender communities and broader populations
Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
“Homophobia and transphobia drive significant parts of HIV epidemics underground in all regions of the world. Only around one in 10 MSM and transgender people have access to HIV prevention services", said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “The Global Fund is fully committed to addressing these inequities for the benefit of MSM and transgender communities and broader populations”.
UNAIDS hosted an event at its headquarters in Geneva that included the screening of a short video on homophobia in Jamaica and how it impacts people, titled A Deadly Cycle and a film Translatina, a full-length documentary that offers a realistic look at the challenges faced by transgender people in accessing education, work, justice, health care, and other services in Latin America.
Also on the agenda were discussions by Frank Mugisha, Executive Director, Sexual Minorities of Uganda; LGBT rights activist Ashok Row Kavi, who is also Technical Officer, Sexual Minorities, UNAIDS country office for India; and Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO HIV director.
In 1990, the World Health Assembly approved the 10th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases (World Health Organization) on May 17, which established that sexual orientation (heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual), on its own, would no longer “be considered as a disorder”. For this reason May 17 is used to mark the International Day against Homophobia.
Related feature stories
Punitive laws limit access to HIV prevention and care services in Asia Pacific (21 May 2009)
Anti-homophobia campaign to end discrimination in Latin America (16 May 2009)
El Salvador: Ministerial decree to reduce homophobia in health services (03 April 2009)
HIV prevention hampered by homophobia (13 January 2009)