Lilongwe: Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) says criminalisation of consensual same sex conduct is still a barrier in tackling HIV and AIDS to meet the government commitment to achieve a zero infection rate by 2030.
Senior Advocacy Officer for CHHR, Michael Kaiyatsa said in an interview the organization has been lobbying the Malawi Government to do more in addressing the challenge.
As an organization that promotes human rights, we have been lobbying government to roll out a programme for this vulnerable group.
The result is that in 2016, the government endorsed the Global Fund programme which has a component on targeting men who have sex with other men (MSM) and HIV prevention, testing, counselling and treatment programmes, said Kaiyatsa.
Kaiyatsa further said although he was absolutely sure that more homosexual men are now able to access HIV services than ever before through the intervention, there are still challenges that need to be addressed.
Criminalization of homosexuality remains a big challenge, though we have been able to sensitise a lot of health workers who treat MSM very well.
Some MSM are afraid to come out in the open and disclose their same sex behaviour to clinicians, especially when they have contracted sexually transmitted infections, said Kaiyatsa.
He added that criminalization of the practice is also increasing the risk of multiple concurrent partners as most homosexual men opt to have several girlfriends in order to conceal their same sex behaviour, he said.
Director for HIV Services for the Ministry of Health, Dr Rose Nyirenda had not responded to our questions for her input at the time we went to press.
At the 2016 International AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa, challenges of accessibility of HIV/AIDS services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) was highlighted as one of the major challenges of addressing HIV/AIDS issues in countries that criminalize homosexuality.
According to the latest UNAIDS data book, Malawi is one of the countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates with 9.2 per cent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 infected with the virus.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA