Since today is International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, it is worth recognizing the importance of efforts to stop inequality and stigma faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people all over the world. Among many other challenges, they face disproportionate rates of HIV infection.
The date of 17 May commemorates the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. It is a day to celebrate the role of LGBT communities and to raise awareness about widespread inequalities they face.
In November 2012, the Global Forum on MSM & HIV released a report that showed that homophobia and stigma from health care providers plays a significant role in reducing access to HIV resources for men who have sex with men. The global survey also indicated that only one third of men who have sex with men can easily access condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment.
Homophobia and discrimination by health providers can make it difficult for MSM and transgender people to use traditional and mainstream health services. Young men who participated in the study said that they relied on trusted community-based organizations, which offer safe spaces to meet other MSM, safe spaces to receive services and access to comprehensive health care.
The Global Fund is committed to implementing policies and strategies to address these challenges. It is important to address structural barriers such as stigma, discrimination, and criminalization. It is also critically important that we support community-based organizations as a vital component of the HIV response that can provide services without facing harassment and intolerance.
From the early days of the AIDS epidemic gay activists have been on the forefront of the response. It involved hundreds of thousands of people coming together, creating organizations, and overcoming incredible adversity as individuals and as communities. It made a tremendous difference.
Yet challenges remain. In the past year, news media have reported hate crimes, raids on LGBT organizations, censorship of websites that share HIV health information. The Global Fund supports the essential work done by MSM and transgender-led organizations to reach out to support their right to health.
The Global Fund built participation and community input into its governance structure. In the new funding model we launched this year, we are promoting the inclusion of civil society representatives, including men who have sex with men and transgender people.
However, participation and partnership with communities is only possible if their basic civil rights are protected. LGBT people in every country have to have the ability to register nongovernmental organizations,to open bank accounts, to hire staff, and share information. They have to be able to do this work without fear of arrest or shutdown.
The Global Fund works in partnership with countries, including vulnerable communities, to support community-based organizations and to affirm their role in the HIV response. We do this through Community Systems Strengthening, including core funding for networks of MSM and transgender people, and our support for programs that address human rights barriers to accessing services.
Let’s honor this day.