NEW YORK, March 1 (Reuters Life!) - African governments are denying access to HIV prevention, counseling, testing and treatment to gay, bisexuals and transgender people, according to a new report.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in a report entitled 'Off the Map' said same-sex practicing couples are being denied basic human rights.
Africa is the continent hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. With slightly more than 10 percent of the world's population, it is home to 60 percent, or more than 25 million people, living with
"But nearly a quarter of a century into the epidemic, there is a wall of silence that surrounds AIDS and same-sex practices that may prove to be a significant obstacle to conquering the disease," according to the 124-page report by New York based- non-governmental organization.
"Same-sex transmission of HIV in Africa has been under-counted, under-researched and under-funded," it added.
The report lists numerous cases where African gays and lesbians have been denied treatment, ridiculed and embarrassed and described the double discrimination of being homosexual and HIV positive.
Cary Alan Johnson, the author of the report, said the denial of homosexuality in Africa contributes to the human rights violations against gay people and increases their vulnerability.
"Homophobic stigma, the denial of homosexuality, and legislation that criminalizes same-sex behavior, all serve to push the issue of same-sex HIV transmission further underground, and drastically limit HIV services," Johnson said.
"All of the social inequalities and prejudices increase the vulnerability of gay and lesbian people. If that vulnerability is not addressed...the entire AIDS prevention programs that African governments are committing to are threatened," he added in an interview.
The report urges governments in Africa to repeal all laws that criminalize same sex consensual behavior. In countries which have no anti-homosexuality laws, it calls on leaders to end the arrest, harassment and persecution of people because of their sexual orientation.
Other recommendations include training healthcare professionals to ensure they respect the right of patients and the appointment of specialists in same-sex HIV issues.
"We want African governments to use their resources from their own coffers and from international donors to fund programs that address the issue of HIV prevention among gay and lesbian Africans," Johnson added.