Anti-LGBT violence hinders HIV prevention and treatment services
A global report has warned that not only do LGBT people face dangers from anti-LGBT violence, but specifically also LGBT activists and HIV service providers that may lead to interruptions to life-saving HIV services.
Released last International Human Rights Day, the report by MSMGF (or the Global Forum on MSM and HIV) gathered data from a number of sources– including new statistics on violence from the 2014 Global Men’s Health and Rights (GMHR) survey.
This survey featured responses from over 2,300 men who have sex with men (MSM) in more than 150 countries.
Anti-LGBT violence worldwide
The MSMGF report documented anti-LGBT violence in 90 countries around the world, as well as the different kinds of violence experienced by LGBT people and the impact this has on individuals and communities.
“Attacks against LGBT people are not only frequent, they are often exceptionally brutal,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of MSMGF and co-author of the report.
“This violence is often perpetrated by people in authority– including police, doctors and prison guards– cutting victims off from systems for protection, justice and healthcare,” Dr. Ayala said.
Anti-LGBT violence against service providers
Given that traditional institutions are cited as a source of anti-LGBT violence, LGBT communities have to depend on the work of LGBT activists and LGBT-led community-based organizations (CBOs)
The work of these groups include are a wide range of services– including HIV prevention and treatment– as activists and CBOs can provide services in a safe space, tailored to the needs of local LGBT communities.
These services are important as the report noted that globally, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV and transgender women 49 times more likely to be living with HIV, as compared to the general population.
“In many countries, LGBT activists and CBOs offer the only safe and high-quality HIV services for LGBT people,” said Dr. Ayala.
“However, as a result of providing these services, activists and service providers can become more visible. This can make them more likely to be targeted for violence,” he added.
Anti-LGBT violence interrupts important services
In the report, anti-LGBT violence had been documented in 20 different cases against LGBT activists and CBOs, which not only interrupted their services but even shut down and halted the services altogether.
For example, following an attack on an MSM clinic in Kenya called KEMRI, local activist Peter Njane spoke of the impact on HIV services. “People used to get their [HIV medicine] at KEMRI. While it’s been closed, there is no provision of condoms and lubricant, no medical services for this community.”
“Some of these things, like lubricant, aren’t available anywhere else…. Some of the men who were attacked are not sure they will be able to go back and work as peer educators,” Njane said.
How to address anti-LGBT violence
The report further noted the effectivity of the CBOs in trying to address anti-LGBT violence, as well as cited anti-violence programs from around the world and a series of recommendations for HIV funders, health institutions, LGBT-led community-based organizations to address this.
“This year, the United Nations announced a new global HIV target. By 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of people with an HIV diagnosis will have sustained access to treatment, and 90 percent of people on treatment will achieve viral suppression,” said Dr. Ayala.
“As the world works to meet these ambitious new goals, it behooves us to address the factors that undermine access HIV services for the most affected populations,” the doctor said. He further warned that the new global targets cannot be achieved without addressing anti-LGBT violence.