Laws, LGBT and the Global Fight Against Alarming HIV/AIDS: What’s the Gov’t Weakest Link?

LGBT and the Global Fight Against Alarming HIV/AIDS: What's the Gov’t Weakest Link?

(This article was also published on Yahoo! Voices—the Yahoo! Contributor Network platform.)

According to World Health Organization 2011 report, about 30 million people died of HIV/AIDS and around 1.8 million people died every year.

From the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [1] in addressing the lack of HIV services for marginalized groups, including men who have sex with men or MSM in this global epidemic,

In countries without laws to protect sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men, only a fraction of the population has access to prevention. Conversely, in countries with legal protection and the protection of human rights for these people, many more have access to services. As a result, there are fewer infections, less demand for antiretroviral treatment and fewer deaths. Not only is it unethical not to protect these groups; it makes no sense from a health perspective. It hurts all of us.

The Unethical Issue in Legal Perspective

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported [2] that according to a study by the US-based Pew Research Center the Philippines has a majority number of Christians—93% of the total 93.3 million Filipinos. While number one in Asia, the Philippines is ranked 5th all over the world.

The Philippines is a democratic and republican state. The 1987 Philippine Constitution guarantees that all laws passed shall not be inimical to its principles and aspirations upholding a government of laws not of men. On the unethical issue in legal perspective, may I simply put it this way:

Not only is it unethical for the Church and for those men of honor to denounce immoral those lesbians, gays, and transgenders or people labeled as LGBT and curtail the equal protection of the law and deprive of the basic human rights but also it is a stupidity and it makes no sense from a biblical perspective where all children are considered equal in the eyes of God and where all men are created equal in legal perspective. It denigrates to the very core of the Church teachings to call LGBT simply unethical, and relatively, the state should penalize any action that diminishes the value of the equality clause.

HIV/AIDS and Its Alarming Identity

HIV/AIDS and Its Alarming Identity--LGBT and the Global Fight Against Alarming HIV/AIDS: What's the Gov’t Weakest Link?

The global fight against HIV/AIDS prevalence has been strengthened by WHO and UNAIDS in consonance to a zero-HIV infection growth by 2015 objective. (Image #2)

Throughout the global journey of this alarming crisis, a significant, high levels of Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV infection have been found among men who have sex with men (MSM) in many countries.

Historically, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS was first discovered among self-identified young homosexual men in the United States of America.

Based on Progress Report 2011: Global HIV/AIDS response [3], about 2.7 million people worldwide were newly infected with HIV in 2010, and it is alarming that about 390,000 were children.

Despite the diligent implementation of HIV programs and strategies and worldwide funding from member states of a particular region, new HIV infections are significantly on the rise in the regions of the Middle East and North Africa.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’s (UNAIDS) Investment Framework [ibid. 4], the current annual international funding for HIV programs fell in 2010 and was only about US$16 billion—a way, way below the needed annual fund by 2015 to “sustain an effective, comprehensive response to the crisis”!

The WHO Progress Report 2011 disclosed that the sub-Saharan Africa (comprises Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, and Zambia) has nearly 68% of people infected with HIV and 59% of it are women. This status made Africa as the capital region of HIV-infected people in the world!

On the other hand, Asia has about 4.8 million people infected with HIV. About 2.3 million of it came from India—Asia’s capital region of HIV-infected people.

In the Philippines according to Bulatlat.com, In December 2010 alone, 174 new cases [of HIV infections] were reported, representing a 38-percent increase compared to the same month in 2009….” (“[The] Philippines Among 7 Countries with Steady Increase in HIV Infections” by Ace Alegre, bulatlat.com)

How Does It Become Prevalent?

How it becomes prevalent is based on several factors that either be independent or intertwining with each other such as the behavioral aspect, biological, or social and cultural. These aspects are general perspectives to start looking into the solutions of the crisis.

According to the article, “HIV, AIDS and Men Who Have Sex with Men“, [5] the above-mentioned aspects are considered premises why HIV became prevalent in MSM.

The article further disclosed that in an incident where an individual (another man) has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and engaged in an unprotected sex, this can lead to a biological factor that increases the risk of becoming infected with HIV.

In the behavioral aspect, the article attempted to probe that certain behavior increases the risk of becoming infected with HIV such as having multiple sex partners, not using condoms regularly, taking alcohol or drugs, and being complacent towards safer sex.

Lastly, in social and cultural aspect, the article insisted that societies or governments that are denial about MSM and in the societies where it becomes a taboo subject in their cultures these may lead as significant factor contributing the rise of HIV-infected individuals. In addition, in countries where sex is commercial, transgender or female sex workers may find difficult to convince their clients to use condoms. This may result in the increasing risk of becoming infected with HIV.

How Do Laws Mitigate the Alarming HIV Prevalence?

Studies probed and generally concluded that the rise of HIV infections in a certain region was prevalent in men who have sex with men (MSM). The most alarming, according to a study, is that those MSM in low-income and middle-income countries have sufficient or correct knowledge about HIV. Later in their life, in the worst case, did only they know that AIDS has already developed.

It remains undeniable fact in all regions of the world—including here in the US—that men who have sex with men lack universal access to HIV services,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michael Sidiba during the 2009 forum on “HIV, Human Rights and Men Who Have Sex with Men” [ibid. 6].

A study conducted according to the article, “HIV, AIDS and Men Who Have Sex with Men” [ibid. 7] asserts:

A major reason for this shortcoming is the fact that many countries have laws banning same sex relations. A 2009 report revealed that same sex relations between consenting adults is a criminal offence in 80 countries. In five of these countries (Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and parts of Nigeria and Somalia), it is punishable by death penalty.

The study further asserts [ibid. 8]:

Where such laws are in place, governments are unlikely to promote any sort of HIV interventions aimed at men who have sex with men; groups or individuals who [do] try to carry out such campaigns, as much as men who have sex with men themselves, may face violence or arrest.

Conclusion

The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges the significant role of MSMs on the alarming rise of HIV infections all over the world. In relevance, the World Health Assembly adopted this May the new Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV/AIDS 2011-2015 consistent with its comprehensive perspective to ‘control’ rather, new HIV infections in infants and young and beat AIDS-related death by 50% [9].

WHO, also, pointed out that the vast majority of new HIV infections came from the unprotected heterosexual intercourse and parent-offspring transmission of infection.

However, it would also be equally important to consider that the prevalence of HIV infections could be a possible outcome should the government continue restricting and downplaying the need to address LGBT issues of equality in all strands in the workings of the society.

Furthermore, the religions’ perpetual persecutions and the society’s misconceived perspectives and approaches in looking at the legitimacy of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender groups of population add up to the upward rise of the incidence. As clear as in the broad daylight, these people—LGBT—are tending to prefer into hiding themselves and let their vulnerability to HIV infections remain unrecognized and unregulated.

But reality may claim that the prevalence of HIV in a certain area of regions are manipulated, distorted, and exaggerated, or underrepresented. Thus, this crisis is more alarming than what has been reported.

If the data of how HIV infections statistics runs throughout the time inadequate to rely on, then what must the government do to strengthen the regulation and control of HIV infections in the years to come or by 2015 and onwards? In other words, is passing a law criminalizing homosexuality can be a deterrent factor to eliminate or regulate rather, the alarming incidence of HIV infections?

India’s decision in July 2009 to repeal the law criminalizing homosexuality though has seen significant development to improving the country’s provision or funding for HIV programs such as treatments, prevention, and care for those infected with HIV, India had the most number of HIV-infected people in Asia—49% of people in Asia with HIV [10].

In Kenya [11], where homosexuality is illegal; the HIV prevalence in some areas soared high. In South Africa, where homosexuality is legal; the HIV prevalence in some areas quadrupled the general population.

Given these premises, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is dependent on some other factors outside the premise in recognizing the legitimacy of equal rights of LGBTs. But factors such us biological, behavioral, and social or cultural, were indeed, played a crucial or significant role in either mitigating or aggravating the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection.

On the other hand, the government’s cooperation and initiative to pass laws recognizing the legitimacy of equal rights of LGBTs is undeniably a mitigating factor in the alarming prevalence of HIV infections. Through the government initiative to formulate and implement programs for LGBTs and HIV-infected people, the choice to go into hiding would soon become a dream to wish for. Thus, these major players of HIV infection prevalence would be properly addressed, regulated, or controlled without any fear of persecution and discrimination.

Inasmuch as this global crisis is as urgent as a global fight, UNAIDS, during December 10, 2011 Human Rights Day, [12]calls for greater leadership to countries in protecting, promoting, and upholding human rights for all people infected with and vulnerable to HIV.”

It must be understood that it may be the only way for a country to achieve serious positive developments in all respects, especially on this issue of gender equality and the fight for HIV, is to recognize first the legitimate equality of all individuals before the law and before religious perceptions and prejudices where the basic Christian teaching of equality of man before the eyes of God and before anyone else has long been generally accepted. ▲


Footnotes
[1] Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, August 2008 UNAIDS Action Framework: Universal Access for Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender People, 2009.
[2] “Philippines Still Top Christian Country in Asia, 5th in the World” by Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research; AFP. Philippine Daily Inquirer, Wednesday, December 21, 2011. (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/21233/philippines-still-top-christian-country-in-asia-5th-in-world)
[3] “Key Facts on Global HIV Epidemic and Progress in 2010”, based on Progress Report 2011: Global HIV /AIDS Response. World Health Organization. (http://www.who.int)
[ibid. 4]., under “Beyond 2011: Treatments Gains Amid Funding Uncertainties.”
[5] “HIV, AIDS and Men Who Have Sex with Men”, under “What Makes Men Who Have Sex with Men Vulnerable to HIV?”. (http://www.avert.org)
[ibid. 6]., under “Responding to HIV Among Men Who Have Sex with Men: The Challenges”, below 2nd par.
[ibid. 7]., 3rd par.
[ibid. 8]., 3rd line, 3rd par.
[9] “Key Facts on Global HIV Epidemic and Progress in 2010”, based on Progress Report 2011: Global HIV /AIDS Response, under “Beyond 2011: Treatments Gains Amid Funding Uncertainties”, last par. World Health Organization. (http://www.who.int)
[10] “HIV, AIDS and Men Who Have Sex with Men”, under “Responding to HIV Among Men Who Have Sex with Men: The challenges”, 7th par. (http://www.avert.org)
[11] “HIV, AIDS and Men Who Have Sex with Men”, under “Men Who Have Sex with Men and HIV—the Global Picture”, 3rd par. (http://www.avert.org)
[12] “Press Statement: UNAIDS Calls for Greater Leadership in Addressing Human Rights Violations in the AIDS Response”. Geneva, December 9, 2011. (http://www.unaids.org)

Related Readings:

  • “LGBT violence worse than other hate crimes—UN” by BC/ELR, GMA News; December 16, 2011. (http://www.gmanetwork.com)
  • “South Africa: LGBT Rights in Name Only?”, Human Rights Watch, December 5, 2011. (http://www.hrw.org)

Image Attributions:

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About REGEL JAVINES

Former stringer for Allvoices and contributor for Yahoo. Had worked as an editor in publishing companies for years and so far has earned some units in MBA.
Aside | This entry was posted in COMMENTARIES & INSIGHTS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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