Africa Region Working Paper Series No. 84
Sex between people of the same gender occurs in all societies. In Africa such behavior is most often not associated with a homosexual identity, but men having sex with men usually have sex with women as well, get married, and have children. In most countries of Africa sex between people of the same gender is still prohibited under sodomy laws which were introduced by the colonial powers.
Great stigma and discrimination occurs against those people who are either unable or unwilling to hide the fact that they have sex with partners of the same sex. The adverse consequences documented in this paper include eviction from families and neighborhood, loss of jobs and housing, discrimination in the health services, and a high level of violence, including from the police.
As a consequence many sexual minority members are among the poorest and most marginalized members of society, and have no social safety net. They are at a high risk of engaging in transactional sex. Since anal sex is one of the most efficeint ways of transmitting HIV, men having sex with men are heavily affected by the epidemic.
There are virtually no programs in Africa focusing on prevention among men having sex with men, and most of them have unprotected sex with both their male and female partners. There is therefore an important bridge between the epidemic among men having sex with men and their women and children. It is urgent that the twin epidemics of HIV/AIDS and violence be tackled as part of HIV/AIDS and poverty reduction programs.
Approaches to combat HIV/AIDS among men having sex with men are well developed, and include epidemiological approaches focusing on the sexual behaviors, cultural-anthropological approaches focusing on the meaning of these relationships, and empowerment approaches fostering on capacity building of the sexual minorities themselves, so that they can take the lead in combating HIV/AIDS among themselves, cobat violence, and fight for their human rights. The reason for inaction on these issues are not lack of tolerance, but lack of political will.