Homosexuality and HIV Infection
I decided to write on the community of LGBT because it seems to be a very sensitive issue in our community. I have interacted with lots of gays, lesbians living with HIV through my work. I have met real people with good hearts and ability and are very intelligent. I came to the point of accepting them beside their sexual orientation. They had a lot of painful experiences encountered too. Last week, I received an e-mail from someone. In this e-mail he pleaded to me that I should write an article about gays and lesbians and the difficulties they have living with HIV. In his own words he said, “Currently I have a condition of which I am even afraid to present it to medical practitioners”. He said if presented, he would be asked and judged on the nature of the problem which is entirely condemned by our society. He further noted that they want an enabling environment to lay out their issues without fear. I spoke to a private doctor and he went for treatment. But what about those who cannot afford private medical assistance? They suffer and die in silence. These are human beings and every human count. Let us embrace this community and give them care and support they need. Gays are among the most affected groups by HIV in this country. It is unfortunate that even the laws that need to protect them do not do so. It is considered illegal if you are found in such an act. Gays and lesbians are barely supported. Their identities are even hidden in the HIV programmes. In the phase of this epidemic, we can no longer afford to neglect some group of people. Stigma and discrimination persist in Namibia and negatively affect the health and wellbeing of gays, bi-sexuals, and lesbians. Stigma and discrimination are social determinants of health. Such barrier to health needs to be addressed at different levels of society. Efforts to fight the spread of HIV and Aids are being held back by some health workers’ reluctance to treat high risk groups. In this issue, I specifically refer to gays and lesbians. Generally, health services for HIV and Aids is getting better. However, there are still many health workers who attach strong stigma on to certain groups. Health workers do not have proper understanding about gays and lesbians. As a result many from this community are reluctant to be checked because they do not want to be judged. Even trying to get a word out to gay is difficult because they tend to conceal their sexual orientation. The campaign on HIV prevention should target those with the same sex or opposite sex to protect themselves. Generally, lesbians are at low risk of HIV infection and unplanned pregnancies. Lesbians are just as vulnerable to certain sexual transmitted diseases as women who have sex with men. Therefore, women need to know the risks and how to protect themselves. To be safe they must ensure that infected fluids, such as blood or vaginal fluids do not enter their body during sex. Precautions can be taken and this includes not sharing sex toys. The effect of negative attitude towards the LGBT: Limit Men having sex with Men (MSM) ability to access health care that is responsive to their health issues Affect income, employment status, and the ability to get and keep health insurance Contribute to poor mental health and unhealthy lifestyle, such as substance abuse, risky sexual behaviour and suicidal attempts Make it difficult for some of them to talk about their sexual behaviour with others It is unfortunate but we have to face reality, in Namibia, given our cultural norms, tradition, religions, beliefs and values we are so much against gay, lesbians, bi-sexual and trans-gender activities. Public attitudes display lots of discrimination and prejudice against these groups. This can have quite serious consequences. Whether we like it or not, we have people who have sex with the same sex and this is a reality. Silence, negligence and deliberate ignorance intensify the problem towards the fight against HIV and AIDS.