A senior UN official has announced that anti-LGBTQ laws are impeding the fight against AIDS by preventing people from accessing lifesaving health services.
According to The Guardian, currently 67 countries have laws that criminalize gay sex, nearly half of which are in Africa “the continent most affected by HIV” where prevalence rates for the virus are five times higher than in countries where same-sex relations are legal.
Though much of the world is making slow progress in expanding LGBTQ+ rights, African countries are putting down harsh legislation in the opposite direction. This year Uganda made gay sex a crime punishable by life in prison, and “aggravated homosexuality” or the transmission of HIV through same-sex relations, punishable by death. And despite many countries condemning the Ugandan laws, and rolling back support for the country’s economy, lawmakers there persist.
The UN released statistics revealing 1,700 people die every day from the virus. Last year, 1.3 million people were infected with the virus, and 39 million people in total were living with it. Around 9.2 million people living with the condition did not have access to treatment.
The spread of the disease is also worsened by the lack of sex education for youth in African countries. But efforts to educate and provide resources have seen some success in countries with the development of protective contraceptives for women, who are most often affected by HIV due to sexual violence.
“When LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized communities are stigmatized and criminalized, their access to lifesaving health services is obstructed, and the HIV response is undermined,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAids.