HIV pandemic - rich West should twin with poor South
Western HIV agencies urged to empower Third World counterparts
Assist with funding, equipment, training and travel, urges Peter Tatchell
Toronto , Canada - 10 August 2006
"Western HIV organisations should twin with their counterparts in developing countries to help overcome the huge global disparities in the resources available for the fight against HIV," according to British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was the keynote speaker at a satellite event linked to the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, today (10 August 2006).
"We need to respond to requests for help from HIV organisations in the global south. Instead of waiting for action from governments, every HIV agency in the West should link up with a counterpart organisation in the Third World - empowering them with funding, equipment, training and travel costs, so they can attend international AIDS conferences.
"Well financed western HIV organisations can easily afford to buy computers and phones for badly under-funded HIV groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
"We should heed their calls for help and proactively offer our support. Training local activists in HIV counselling, political lobbying and media communications are simple, practical ways to empower these groups," he said.
Mr Tatchell was speaking at the satellite conference: "MSM & HIV: Advancing a global agenda for gay men and other men who have sex with men," held at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre.
Mr Tatchell's speech also highlighted:
"HIV and LGBT human rights are global issues that transcend national boundaries. We are all in this pandemic together. But not all of us are on a level playing field. HIV is happening in a world divided by massive inequ ali ties. The world is split into rich countries and poor countries. There is no parity of opportunities and resources to combat HIV. The world is also divided into countries where HIV and LGBT organisations operate in conditions of relative freedom, where they have access to elected and accountable governments. But there are many countries - a majority of countries - where similar organisations face severe restrictions and even overt repression. It is an urgent priority for free and better off western HIV and LGBT organisations to twin with sister organisations in developing nations. What is needed, above all else, is global solidarity in the fight against HIV.
"It is not only homophobia that is undermining the fight against HIV, but also sexphobia. We need to challenge sexual hang-ups and phobias through education that is sex-positive and sex-affirmative. People who feel ashamed about sex, and guilty about their own bodies and sexu ali ty, are the least likely to practise safer sex, get tested for HIV and other STIs, seek prompt treatment for HIV infection and take care of their general health.
"The global struggle for LGBT human rights, including the struggle to end the crimin ali sation of same-sex behaviour, is crucial to the fight against HIV. Illegality fosters secrecy, furtiveness and shame. Open and empowered LGBT communities are best able to offer effective peer education in HIV prevention.
"The closet is an incubation lab for HIV. Hiding one's sexuality and leading a secret double life feeds stress and self-loathing, which is not conducive to safer sex. Giving people the security and confidence to be open about their sexuality is an important aspect of the HIV prevention equation.
"HIV is a political pandemic. We need to reclaim HIV as a political and human rights issue, as well as a health concern. This means campaigning against the continuing under-funding of safer sex projects targeted at gay and bisexual men; the margin ali sation of men who have sex with men by many governments and AIDS organisations; prejudice and discrimination against people with HIV in housing and employment; and the often homophobic bias of the education curriculum, of health-care services and of the insurance industry," said Mr Tatchell.
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