World AIDS Day

This December 1st, around the globe, we commemorate together the 20th World AIDS Day by focusing on ‘leadership’, which is required in strong and unyielding fashion if we are to reverse the spread of the epidemic. Guyanese civil society organizations have taken leadership in responding to the epidemic at the community level. Government leadership, especially in ensuring legal protection for people made vulnerable by HIV, is critically needed.

In Guyana, structural stigma and discrimination, especially homophobia, are a major area where such leadership is needed.

Guyana joined with other states last year to commit at the highest inter-governmental level at the UN General Assembly to the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS to:

". … eliminate all forms of discrimination against and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups, in particular to ensure their access to… legal protection…”

It is not who they are that put gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) at risk for HIV. It is the political, legal, economic, social, cultural forms of marginalisation and exclusion that make MSM vulnerable. Stigma and discrimination continue to undermine our efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Criminalisation of sexual activity conducted between consenting, adult men in private reinforces the perpetuation of homophobia at all levels of society, and drives this vulnerable group away from the information and education that is necessary to save their lives and the lives of their partners.

When asked what the government can do to address these structural issues, we at SASOD respond: decriminalize consensual, sexual activity between adult men in private. This will send a strong message across the country that we are serious when we say we respect
people’s human rights to privacy, non-discrimination and health. AIDS rhetoric from politicians and public officials on MSM issues is not enough. It is time for the government to take leadership actions now.

This year, SASOD, with support from the Government of Guyana/World Bank Guyana AIDS Prevention and Control Project is implementing Spectrum Health Net, an Internet based-project to provide comprehensive and holistic education across the spectrum of human sexuality, with a special focus on MSM. While specific interventions are necessary and indicate some recognition of the vulnerability of the groups, SASOD has recognised that these types of interventions are more costly and difficult when there is an atmosphere of

We therefore call on the Government to fulfill their committment made in 2006 so as to increase the effectiveness of all interventions to reduce the impact of the HIV epidemic.
Tags: WADHIV/AIDSUNDiscriminationStigmaPrevention