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New PEPFAR Rules Fight African Homophobia

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PEPFAR, the 48-billion dollar US international AIDS effort, has released guidance on reaching gay and bisexual men, and it may have the effect of tamping down government homophobia in developing countries.

The document says that men who have sex with men –MSM — are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population.

Prevention activities have to follow the epidemiology and target resources to where the epidemic is, in order to be successful.

PEPFAR says “the negative effects of homophobia, stigma, and discrimination are obstacles to implementing effective programs for MSM.”

It calls for changing laws to decriminalize homosexual activity, tackle social stigma, and build up community-based organizations that have the trust of gay and bisexual men.

The US-based nonprofit Global Forum on MSM & HIV has been pushing for such guidance since 2009.

Executive director George Ayala was pleased that the document recognizes “that human rights, legal barriers, and homophobia must be addressed” as part of an effective response to HIV.

But Ayala also criticized it for not being specific on HOW to address those issues, for not earmarking funding for those activities, and for having no plan for accountability.

A senior PEPFAR official said on background that the agency wants to make sure countries have the flexibility to create plans tailored to “hotspots of new infections” rather than impose a boilerplate formula on all countries.

If a country plan submitted in October does not adequately address the needs of MSM, the official said, “Then the funding doesn’t get approved.”

-Bob Roehr

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Written by OutQ News staff

May 31, 2011 at 8:45 AM

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