Punitive and Discriminatory Laws limit access to HIV prevention and care services for MSM
More than 90 percent of men having sex with men in the Asia Pacific region do not have access to HIV prevention and care services. HIV prevalence has reached alarming levels among men who have sex with men and transgender populations in many countries of Asia and the Pacific.
If countries fail to address the legal context of the epidemic, this already critical situation is likely to become worse. The implementation of effective, human rights-based national HIV responses requires governments to consider the effect of laws and law enforcement practices on the health of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender persons. Read more
Coinciding with the International Day against Homophobia, this warning came as a key finding in the report on “Laws affecting HIV responses among men who have sex with men and transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific: an agenda for action.” This forthcoming report with its key findings were reviewed today during 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 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) and the Center for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL) at the Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong.
The report showed that 19 of 48 countries in the Asia Pacific region criminalize male to male sex, and these laws often taken on the force of vigilantism, often leading to abuse and human rights violations. Even in the absence of criminalization, other provisions of law often violate the rights of MSM and transgender persons along with arbitrary and inappropriate enforcement, thereby obstructing HIV interventions, advocacy and outreach, and service delivery. This very debate was at the heart of the recent landmark ruling by the Delhi High Court that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unfairly discriminates against men who have sex with men and consenting adults in general.
Furthermore, the report found that legislation and law enforcement often lags behind national HIV policies, with the result that the reach and effectiveness of programs for MSM and transgender persons are undermined. This indicates the need for greater coordination between health and justice sectors within government. There has been growing awareness among national policy makers of the need to identify MSM as a key population to be addressed by national HIV programmes.
“The effectiveness of the HIV response will depend not just on the