The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, along with other international leaders, is calling for an end to homophobic bias and its effects on the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS around the world. In an address to the International AIDS Conference, Mexico City, Ki-moon said:
I call on politicians around the world to speak out against discrimination and protect the rights of people living with and affected by HIV, for schools to teach respect, for religious leaders to preach tolerance, and for the media to condemn prejudice in all its forms.
He went on to say discrimination that against men who have sex with men must end, and countries must gear up prevention programs against AIDS in this high-risk group. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said health officials in all nations- including the United States- need to acknowledge setbacks in a group that pioneered the earliest response to the disease.
We need to engage them, we need to take care of them, we should not forget about them.
Also calling for an end to homophobia at the meeting was Mexican President Felipe Calderon, former Botswanan President Festus Mogae, and President of St. Kitts and Nevis Denzil Douglas. They said they would reach out to leaders in Africa and the Caribbean to create new prevention programs.
According to the United Nations, More than a quarter of gay men in these regions, including Jamaica, Kenya and Ghana, are infected. Peter Piot, the executive director of New York-based UNAIDS, the agency that coordinates care and research, said:
Despite a quarter-century of activism and awareness, gay populations have been overlooked because of discrimination and criminalization in some countries.
We often forget the chilling affect that anti-gay discrimination can have in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Too often it not only helps spread the virus, but also keeps those that are positive from getting tested and receiving treatment.
It is refreshing to see leaders stand up and call out countries for the impact their homophobia is having- including in the US. Perhaps international pressure can help foster understanding and help end the stigma against the LGBT community and those living with HIV/AIDS.