NEW YORK — Recent anti-homosexuality laws don’t just violate human rights—they might worsen the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist warns in a PLOS Medicine essay published this week, Newsweek and other news outlets report.
While many countries and communities are expanding civil rights to the LGBT community, such as marriage equality, some nations including Nigeria, Uganda, Russia and India are criminalizing homosexuality or intensifying present anti-gay statutes. More nations are poised to follow, putting public health initiatives at risk, Dr. Chris Beyrer writes in “Pushback: The Current Wave of Anti-Homosexuality Laws and Impacts on Health.”
“These laws and policies make it much more difficult to provide HIV services particularly gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, who really need these services,” Beyrer told Newsweek. “It can definitely lead to a worsening of the HIV epidemic in these countries.”
For example in Nigeria, where homosexuality has long been illegal, the new Same Sex Prohibition Act limits free speech and assembly. Advocates say this might push the LGBT community and its allies deeper underground, meaning these persons won’t seek HIV-prevention or -treatment services. The law, which President Goodluck Jonathan signed on January 13, has the potential to be especially damaging to the country that now reels from the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, Beyrer writes.
In Russia, a 2013 law banning “homosexual propaganda” has also thwarted prevention efforts there. An HIV testing and counseling clinic in Moscow, with which Beyer collaborated, closed this past fall because clients and clinicians felt unsafe, he says