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Posts Tagged / hiv/aids

  • Sep 01 / 2010
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Chinese authorities target HIV/AIDS activists

“The AIDS epidemic is very much concentrated among marginalized populations, and those are groups that are distrustful of the government generally, that have experienced discrimination by the government, and that are hard to reach. The best and most effective way to reach them is through peers, civil society groups.”

“The AIDS epidemic is very much concentrated among marginalized populations, and those are groups that are distrustful of the government generally, that have experienced discrimination by the government, and that are hard to reach. The best and most effective way to reach them is through peers, civil society groups.”
– Joe Amon, Human Rights Watch

Chinese HIV/AIDS activist Wan Yanhai has followed the spread of HIV/AIDS across his country since graduating from medical school in 1988. He was working with AIDS patients long before the government acknowledged China’s epidemic as a legitimate concern. He launched China’s first HIV/AIDS telephone hotline in 1992, while working as a public health official, to provide information and explain the risks of unprotected sex. Two years later, fired from his public health position, he founded China’s largest HIV/AIDS organization, the Beijing Aizhixing Institute.

Wan endured years of government harassment from the public security department, the state security department, the propaganda department and even the fire department. He was repeatedly detained, for days or weeks at a time.
The Beijing Aizhixing Institute has also been subjected to harassment. In 2006, the organization’s Blood Safety and Legal Human Rights Conference was banned. In 2008, at the time of the Beijing Olympics, Aizhixing staff faced constant police inquiry and had to carry identification with them at all times. At times the Institute has been unable to receive overseas remittances—a major source of its funding.

The difficulties intensified in 2010. In March, Wan received visits at work from the Taxation Bureau and the Commercial Bureau, claiming that his organization was unregistered. He was banned from lecturing at a university in Guangzhou and at all universities in the area. For two weeks he was continually watched by a police car parked outside his home.

Following dozens of phone calls and visits from government authorities in April, Wan finally fled to the United States with his wife and daughter. They left their home in Beijing, but complications arose with his daughter’s visa. They then hid for two weeks, first with friends in Guangzhou, then in Hong Kong, before catching a flight to Philadelphia in May.

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  • Nov 01 / 2009
  • Comments Off on LGTB in Kenya
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LGTB in Kenya

Last year in Mombasa, Kenya’s most socially conservative city, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) group was formed to provide psycho-social and health support to their often repressed community. It calls itself PEMA, which means “place of solace” in kiSwahili, the national language.
From HIV/AIDS awareness to feeding programmes, PEMA is determined to gain acceptance and tolerance for Kenya’s LGBT community. Through their monthly “gay parties,” they help the LGBT community network and, as Erica, a PEMA member, says, “let loose.”

In a society where homosexuality is punishable by a jail sentence (and informally by death or stoning), PEMA is making a daring move against the status quo. “Erica” has begun speaking on the radio about her experiences as a lesbian in Kenya. She does not dare reveal her identity, however. She described returning to her office after one radio show to find coworkers talking about the audacity of speaking out on a taboo subject. However, she believes that only by telling people publicly about homosexuality can she help dismantle the many barriers her community faces. Continue Reading

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  • Nov 01 / 2009
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State-sponsored homophobia in Africa: fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic

The names and images of gay and lesbian people interviewed cannot be disclosed because of fear of violence. This image is of Mpho Thaele, 19, an orphan who sells her body on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho.  Photo © Eva-Lotta Jansson/UN-OCHA IRIN and Red Cross

The names and images of gay and lesbian people interviewed cannot be disclosed because of fear of violence. This image is of Mpho Thaele, 19, an orphan who sells her body on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho. Photo © Eva-Lotta Jansson/UN-OCHA IRIN and Red Cross

 

“Gug” – short for “GayUganda” – maintains an internet blog where he writes about his life, giving personal anecdotes along with scathing commentaries about Uganda’s homophobic leadership. But he keeps his identity secret.
“Being with the man I love, I risk a life sentence, to make sure that the morals of the country are not destroyed by my “immorality,”

In Uganda, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Authorities in many African nations would prefer to deny the existence of people like gug. Of 53 African countries, 38 have repressive government policies and sodomy laws that legitimize and encourage social discrimination, including unequal access to medical treatment.

This condemnation drives behavior underground, away from prevention and treatment services, thus increasing the risk of HIV transmission. It is fueling the epidemic on a continent that is already home to over 60 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS. Continue Reading

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