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GALZ supports Zimbabwe’s hosting of ICASA 2015. 13 July 2015

Source: ASSOCIATION OF LGBTI PEOPLE IN ZIMBABWE

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Zimbabwe has been announced as the host Country for the International Conference on AIDS and STI’s In Africa (ICASA) 2015.The conference theme “AIDS in Post 2015: Linking Leadership, Science & Human Rights” supports reaching the 90, 90, 90 goal of UNAIDS.

GALZ, the association of lesbian gay bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Zimbabwe, welcomes the decision and is committed to supporting the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Health and Child Care to host the conference in Zimbabwe. We hope that the event would provide a platform to show how vulnerable LGBTI, MSM and WSW and other key populations are to HIV and how ignoring this community is encouraging the spread of HIV which poses a serious worry for GALZ.

We commend Zimbabwe’s efforts to integrate the needs of inadequately serviced populations as it works to close the treatment gap for all, however there is still much that needs to done. Although GALZ has made great strides towards encouraging greater tolerance of sexual diversity, discourse around sexual minorities remains an official social taboo in Zimbabwe. This homophobia plays a significant role in the spread of HIV. It emerges that a lot of the violations perpetrated against the LGBTI community are driven by homophobia emanating from society’s conservative cultures; strong and sometimes fundamentalist beliefs as well as influence from utterances made by political and other influential leaders.

It is clear that HIV is far more threatening to the health, safety and security of Zimbabwean society and culture than the practice of sodomy itself. It should be noted that the LGBTI community in Zimbabwe and Africa has played a significant role in HIV prevention campaigns and in the fight for access to affordable treatment for all those on the African continent living with the virus.

The conference has “strengthening the interaction between the public health, science and human right approaches in the control and elimination of HIV and associate diseases” as one of its objectives, the human rights protection of the LGBTI community cannot be assumed. LGBTI people are too easily overlooked when it comes to talking of oppression, freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information, protections. This is why there needs to be meaningful engagement of the LGBTI community and ICASA does create another platform to engage meaningfully.

GALZ specifically targets the health needs of MSM/WSW including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender or intersex. Its programming includes counselling, HIV prevention strategies and access to health care for its members. GALZ has made every effort to have issues of homosexuality addressed in national HIV programming at all levels and to point out the dangers of homophobia in relation to the spread of HIV, we are pleased by the progress thus far.

The spread of HIV cannot be halted without addressing the health needs of sexual minorities. It is highly necessary to adopt positive HIV policies relating to this group up to national level. We look forward to Zimbabwe’s hosting of a successful ICASA 2015. // ENDS

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