UNAIDS consultation on HIV and the human rights of LGBTI people
The ability of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people to avoid becoming infected with HIV or to live successfully with the virus has recently come under greater threat as a number of countries have increased the criminalization of these already highly stigmatized populations. In order to address this pressing situation and to explore concrete ways forward, UNAIDS convened an informal policy and strategy consultation in Geneva on 15 and 16 May.
Globally, gay and other men who have sex with men are 13 times more likely to be infected with HIV, while transgender people are 19 times more likely to be. Furthermore, results from various monitoring projects are showing that where there has been further criminalization of LGBTI populations, there has also been an increase of fear in the communities, greater concern that health-care workers might report them, growing cases of organized gangs threatening and extorting individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, and more physical attacks.
The focus of the consultation was to develop strategies to respond to the various health and human rights challenges related to HIV faced by LGBTI people. Shorter-term crisis prevention and management interventions were explored, as well as longer-term sustainable policies and programmes to improve access to health services for LGBTI communities.
The international gathering brought together implementers, advocates, faith leaders, human rights defenders, donors and representatives of United Nations organizations from countries and regions around the globe, including the Caribbean, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Uganda, United States of America and Zambia.
◾Participants characterized the social, legal, health and security status of LGBTI people as a global crisis that demands global solutions, while taking into account national, cultural and social opportunities and challenges.
◾Participants called on UNAIDS to help counter the widespread myths and misconceptions that drive punitive approaches and stigma.
◾Participants also asked UNAIDS to speak out against discrimination in communities and in health services, which acts as a strong disincentive for people to access HIV services.
◾There is a need to build wide coalitions, particularly at the country level, among faith-based groups, academia, women’s networks and other human rights defenders working against marginalization and exclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, etc.
◾There is a need to link with, and further support, regional institutions—including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—working on LGBTI health and rights issues.
“As a self-identified, openly gay man in India, the recent Supreme Court ruling criminalized my existence. This spells doom for a sustained HIV response amongst the men who have sex with men and transgender populations.”
Pallav Patankar, Humsafer Trust
“We are working against a deep and challenging culture of violence and inequity.”
Carolyn Gomes, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition