amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Standing Up Against Homophobia: Fighting Stigma to Prevent HIV

May 15, 2008—In many places, homophobia is not only culturally accepted but also codified into law. Homosexuality is illegal in 85 countries around the world, and even in countries that do not prohibit same-sex sexual behavior, stigma and discrimination can prevent men who have sex with men (MSM) from receiving HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care services. A lack of basic prevention information has led many to engage unknowingly in behavior that increases their risk of contracting HIV.

International Day Against Homophobia will be observed on May 17 by activists around the world, who will mark the occasion by campaigning against homophobia and discrimination, and promoting human rights for sexual minorities. The May 17 date represents a significant moment in the struggle for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. It was on that day in 1990 that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases.

amfAR launched its MSM Initiative in 2007 to address the spread of HIV infection among MSM in the developing world. May 17 will be “a great opportunity for amfAR to highlight the issues of human rights, homophobia, stigma, and discrimination as they relate to MSM and the fight against AIDS,” said Jeffrey Stanton, director of the MSM Initiative.

To underscore the links between homophobia and the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to galvanize international opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity, amfAR has issued a Commitment to Action Against Homophobia. The declaration, which was co-signed by Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, proclaims zero tolerance for homophobia and states, “We condemn the deafening silence with which nations greet the violence, persecution, discrimination, and denial that are perpetrated on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people—a silence that condones the continued violation of the fundamental human rights of these people.”

To read the full text of the declaration, click here.