Thank you for visiting paducahsun.com, the online home of The Paducah Sun.

June 2012
27 28 29 30 31 01 02

Click here to submit an event.

Anti-gay laws in Africa make fight against the AIDS crisis worse

By MICHAEL GERSON Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON - Some of America's closest friends in Africa have turned with a vengeance on gay people. In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan recently approved a law making homosexual acts punishable by a 14-year jail sentence and outlawing gay organizations. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni signed legislation that requires a life sentence for serial offenders and mandates that witnesses report homosexual acts or face penalties themselves.

Early accounts of the implementation of these laws are disturbing, as expected - and as intended. Arrests in Nigeria have given social permission for police extortion and for vigilante violence against gay people and health workers who serve them. In Uganda, government attitudes are amplified in the tabloids. A recent headline is typical: "EXPOSED! Uganda's 200 Top Homos Named." Both countries are producing gay refugees.

The proximate cause of these crackdowns is political. Both Jonathan and Museveni, facing a variety of electoral and economic challenges, are picking populist fights with Western colonialism. After signing Uganda's most recent anti-gay law, Museveni said, "There's now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values. We're sorry to see that you [the West] live the way you live, but we keep quiet about it." This defiance plays well in African electorates (as dictators such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe have exploited for decades). And the West's outraged reaction plays into the strategy, at least in the short term.

In reality, anti-gay laws in Africa (and elsewhere) are often remnants of old colonial statutes. But they also reflect a broad cultural consensus. Homosexuality is illegal in 37 of 54 African countries. Religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian, have a history of encouraging intolerance. Africa's growing evangelical churches have often supported criminalization. And a few American religious figures have incited malicious prejudices rather than confronting them.

This problem has many political, cultural and religious layers. One matter of science, however, is clear: Anti-gay laws are bad for public health.

The context here is HIV/AIDS. Over the last decade, serious progress has been made in places such as Uganda on promoting testing, reducing transmission and providing treatment among most groups. But these advances have slowed, or even stalled, as the fight against AIDS has involved more marginalized, difficult-to-reach populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM).

What influence does criminalization and persecution have on this group? Senegal provides a test case. After nine male HIV prevention workers were arrested on suspicion of "acts against nature" in 2008 and sentenced to eight years in prison, researchers studied the result. Heath providers reported a sharp decline in medical visits by MSM. Some, fearing assault, left the country or discontinued their medical treatment. A number of service providers, concerned for their own safety, stopped doing targeted outreach to MSM.

It is the job of public health officials to account for the reality of human behavior in the pursuit of the public good. Anti-gay laws complicate that task in practical ways.

When Western governments lecture African countries about their retrograde views, it can feed a populist, anti-colonial backlash.What might be more effective is a forceful health-related message. This is an area where civil rights - starting out with a simple zone of personal privacy - is a requirement of public health. Nations such as Nigeria and Uganda are committed to ambitious objectives in fighting AIDS. Those goals are unachievable while any group is targeted for discrimination and excluded from effective outreach.

Comments made about this article - 0 Total

Comment on this article

Your comment has been submitted for approval
captcha 4ac72a0a586f4d068c76095828c7c92a
Top Classifieds
  • Cocker Spaniel Pup - AKC (270)476-258 ... Details
  • Free House Kittens, Pampered270-816-4 ... Details
  • Cash for farms & gold (270)339-8 ... Details
  • Hummel Figurines & Plates, Carniv ... Details
  • Huge Genuine Dark Brown Leather Secti ... Details
  • PILLOW TOPmattress sets NEW in plasti ... Details
  • RUNNING, fixable, junk vehicles, equi ... Details
  • Pride lift chair, excellent working c ... Details
  • KENMORE GAS kitchen stove $100/OBO ... Details
  • SEEING is believing! Don't buy p ... Details
  • 4010 Maxon Rd. 1.33 Acres, 4 BD. 3.5 ... Details
  • 2000 Dutchman 20 ft Pop-up Camper. Ve ... Details
This Week In Photos
Most Popular
  1. High school's metals program becomes hit
  2. Seniors force-fed higher taxes by local school boards
  3. MEASURE ACT, often picked on, provides useful data
  1. Whaler's Catch finally hooks buyer
  2. Bevin backs clerk in gay marriage fight
  3. Suspect in Mayfield killing to face '16 trial
  1. Bevin backs clerk in gay marriage fight
  2. High school's metals program becomes hit
  3. Whaler's Catch finally hooks buyer

Check out these recently discussed stories and voice your opinion...