Repeal homsexual laws

By Sellina Nkowani in Vienna,Austria

As the world has converged in Vienna Austria, global leaders have called upon countries in Africa, Malawi in particular, to repeal its homosexual laws that criminalize homosexuality and laws that also criminalise prostitution.

Malawi was one of the countries that have been asked to repeal their homosexual laws.

On drug users especially drug injectors, the world leaders said countries in Africa and the rest of the world should stop spending money on the police chasing and arresting such people, but instead channel the money to treatment and care for them.

This they said will help countries to respond positively to the fight against HIV and accomplish the Universal Access to HIV care, treatment and support.

In her opening remarks on Sunday evening, President of the Austrian Aids Society and Aids 2010 Local Co-chair, Dr Brigitte Schmied sent a strong message to countries such as Malawi to respect the rights of such people.

“Treatment, not persecution, is demanded. Repeal the homosexual laws,” she said adding that persecution and prosecution and criminalization of such minority and vulnerable groups are obstacles to controlling HIV/Aids in the world.

Sharing her sentiments, Dr. Julio Montaner, President of International AIDS Society (IAS); Director, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and AIDS 2010 Co-Chair said that sex work is work and should be decriminalized.
This was a quick response from the demonstrators who thronged the conference hall demanding that sex work be recognized as work and that world leaders gathered at the conference should respect the rights of sex workers.
“I agree with you, sex work is work and should therefore be decriminalized,” he said and his statement was met with wild jubilations and applauds from the demonstrators and conference participants.
Montaner said that the theme of AIDS 2010, Rights Here, Right Now was chosen to emphasize the critical and fundamental connection between human rights and HIV.

“There can be no end to the pandemic unless we secure full protection of human rights for those most vulnerable to HIV and AIDS,” he said.
Former USA President Bill Clinton in his remarks on Monday also hinted on the need to secure rights of the most vulnerable groups to HIV/Aids such as Men who have sex with men (MSM).
He said so far MSMs remain the main source of HIV transmission but stigma kills them.
He said there is need to fund what he called “most controversial things” a direct reference to homosexuality, prostitution and illicit drug users.

He added that Obama has not backtracked on his promises on Global Fund.
Clinton added that with the new WHO guidelines, countries like Malawi will have more people showing up for treatment but drug stock-outs discourage people from visiting the hospital.
“Who would want to go to a hospital where there is just an office and the officer sends you back because there are no drugs at the hospital?” he queried adding that this is the very reason for supporting increased funding to developing countries, but advised countries to use the money meant for HIV wisely.

“In many countries this money is spent on too many meetings, too many air-tickets and studies have been shelved on the shelves,” he said.
Assistant Director, Debt and Aid Division in the Ministry of Finance Madalo Nyambose said HIV/Aids services in Malawi are available to everyone. This was a response to a question she was asked on how Malawi intends to achieve Universal Access with laws that criminalise homosexuality and prostitution.


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