Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bias hurts fight vs HIV in gay Asian men—UN
First Posted 08:53:00 05/18/2010
Filed Under: Sex Videos, Health, Asia Australia - Australia New Zealand, Gender Issues

MANILA, Philippines--More than 90 percent of men having sex with men in the Asia-Pacific region, a group in which HIV prevalence has reached alarming levels, do not have access to prevention and care services due to an adverse legal and social environment, a United Nations-backed forum was told.

And this already critical situation is likely to become worse unless countries address the legal context of the epidemic, taking into account the effect of laws and law enforcement practices on the health of men who have sex with men and transgender persons.

“The effectiveness of the HIV response will depend not just on the sustained scale-up of HIV prevention, treatment and care, but on whether the legal and social environment support or hinder programs for those who are most vulnerable,” Mandeep Dhaliwal, UN Development Program (UNDP) Cluster Leader on Human Rights, Gender, and Sexual Diversity, told the gathering in Hong Kong Monday.

“The development and strengthening of an enabling legal and social environment is critical for comprehensive interventions for men who have sex with men and transgender people to have the greatest impact.”

The forum--the high-level dialogue on punitive laws, human rights, and HIV prevention among men who have sex with men in the Asia-Pacific region, convened by the UNDP, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (Apcom), and the Center for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL) at the University of Hong Kong--reviewed the findings of an upcoming report.

According to the study--on laws affecting HIV responses among men who have sex with men and transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific--19 of 48 countries in the region criminalize sex between men, with laws often taking on the force of vigilantism leading to abuse and human rights violations.

Even in the absence of criminalization, other provisions of law often violate the rights of those concerned, thereby obstructing HIV interventions, advocacy and outreach, and service delivery. Moreover, legislation and law enforcement often lag behind national HIV policies, undermining the reach and effectiveness of programs for men who have sex with men.

This indicates the need for greater coordination between health and justice sectors within government, the report stresses. It highlighted some recent examples of protective laws, judicial and policy actions to improve the legal environment for the men concerned, including important court judgments in Fiji, India, Hong Kong, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and South Korea.

But these are exceptional developments and action is required to improve the legal environment in all countries, it warned.

Panelists in the high-level dialogue include former national high court justices, and representatives from the UN system, parliaments, and civil society.

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