Saturday, December 1, 2012
World AIDS Day: Getting to Zero Means Ending All-Discrimintation
Criminalization of same-sex relationships in Africa as well as widespread discrimination and stigmatization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people often fuels HIV infections among our communities. African governments must come to terms with the fact that no meaningful progress can be made in the fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Africa without the decriminalization of homosexuality and protection of LGBT human rights.--Damian Ugwu, Program Co-ordinator for Africa, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
This is the truth, and this is the reality of what helps to keep an epidemic spreading on continents such as Africa. And this statement comes at a time when, yet again, the government officials in Uganda are attempting to pass a law that would institute criminal penalties for LGBT people, and their allies. Even though Ugandan parliament member David Bahati says he has removed the death penalty provision from the legislation, he hasn't produced his amended version. And frankly, I don't trust him or any of those associated with this hateful measure. The international pressure is out there to stop the bill. But until it is withdrawn, and Bahati is no longer in office, I will not be convinced that my LGBT brothers and sisters in Uganda are safe.
The fears of people who are HIV positive and people living with AIDS, the misconception that this is somehow "God's will" to "punish" people for sexual behavior you would think is something we've moved beyond. But we haven't. Not in Africa, not in Asia, and not even in the United States of America. There is an excellent and heartfelt peace by Bruce Garner at the Integrity blog site that captures some of the frustration that is still out there, particularly in the southeastern United States. I highly recommend it.
In order for us to "Get to Zero" rate of infection, and finally have an AIDS-free generation by 2015, many things are going to have to change. The old fears, and the old ways of telling everyone that abstinence is the only way to prevent infection needs to end. We need to get real about talking to kids... and adults... about sex, and it needs to stop being such a taboo topic. We need to stop accepting discrimination as a given for not only gay people, but all people (I heard a report on NPR that said that immigrants are among the high-risk groups because they don't seek medical care until it is too late). I go back to a theme I've been writing on recently, that final statement of our baptismal covenant in the Episcopal Church:
"Will you strive for justice and peace and will you respect the dignity of every human being?"
Besides responding, "We will, with God's help," we must commit that we will.
I will. God's help or not.