The irony of homophobia in Africa

  • Semugoma P
  • Nemande S
  • Baral S
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Homosexuals are "worse than pigs and dogs" asserted one former African President. Anti-gay rhetoric is the norm in countries across Africa, but this sentiment is dangerous and anachronistic. We discuss three ironies inherent in African homophobia, and their consequences not only for increasing risk of HIV/AIDS in men who have sex with men (MSM) but also for threatening people’s health in Africa more generally. People working in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa should not be blind to the forces of homophobia and prejudice against homosexuals. In the short and medium term, known scientific and public health facts should be emphasized to educate people who deem addressing the needs of MSM a distraction. In the long term, it is important to encourage organization and empowerment of MSM communities to play a key part in addressing the needs of their communities. MSM community groups are emerging across Africa; as advocates and service providers, these are the people best positioned to face the challenges of HIV in their communities. Stakeholders (including the general public, communities of advocates, and scientists) should be educated to deinstitutionalize homophobia across Africa, much as the stigma associated with HIV infection has been targeted. Evidence from around the world must be considered, but the solutions generated should be contextually appropriate for Africa. However, to start, we must simply recognize that homophobia exists and potentiates the spread of HIV across a continent that already bears a great burden of the illness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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