For Immediate Release, March 31, 2009
Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016, firstname.lastname@example.org
(New York, March 31, 2009) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have been denied access to HIV services funded with U.S. foreign assistance, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said today in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton. IGLHRC called for a more inclusive approach to sexual and reproductive health policy overseas, and the appointment of a Global AIDS Coordinator prepared to promote LGBT health and rights.
“In recent years, U.S. policy has by and large neglected the needs of LGBT people worldwide,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC’s Executive Director. “The Obama administration should use this moment of great change to bring U.S. HIV funding overseas into harmony with our stated commitments to science, human rights and inclusion.”
Most U.S. HIV funding is channeled through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was created under the Bush administration. While PEPFAR has undoubtedly saved many lives, its ideologically-driven approach has meant that LGBT people around the world—many of whom are highly vulnerable to HIV infection and confront a crippling web of human rights violations—have been systematically excluded from its scope. PEPFAR promotes abstinence-only-until marriage programming rather than comprehensive HIV education, an approach that has proven to be ineffective and discriminatory against gay men and lesbians. Abstinence-only programs are not even required to mention condoms, and many have presented erroneous statistics that inflate condom failure rates. When implemented by conservative religious institutions, many PEPFAR-funded programs either teach that homosexuality is sinful or entirely fail to address same-sex HIV transmission, leaving LGBT people without the critical information they need to survive.
Furthermore, there is inadequate PEPFAR funding dedicated to programs for men who have sex with men. While research indicates that gay and bisexual men are up to 19 times more likely to be HIV positive than men in the general population (Baral et al, 2007), less than one percent of the HIV prevention needs of men who have sex with men are currently being met (UNAIDS, 2006). IGLHRC’s 2007 publication, Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa, documents that less than U.S. $1 million—out of a total of $15 billion allocated for HIV services—were spent on HIV prevention and treatment programs for men who have sex with men in Africa.
In its letter to Secretary of State Clinton, IGLHRC asks the Obama administration to increase funding to HIV programs for LGBT communities worldwide, and to discontinue funding anyone who perpetuates human rights abuses against LGBT people. In 2007, IGLHRC questioned PEPFAR funding of two Ugandan organizations actively promoting discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Makerere Community Church’s Martin Ssempa has stated "there should be no rights granted to homosexuals in this country," and Sheikh Multah Bukenya, a senior cleric in the Tabliqh Organization, has said that his followers are "ready to wipe out all abnormal practices like homosexuality in our society."
IGLHRC also called for greater leadership to repeal laws that target LGBT people throughout the world.