|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) stands with the China HIV/AIDS CBO Network in strongly condemning the arbitrary arrest and mistreatment of more than 80 gay men at a popular Beijing park on Sunday night.
According to local activists, 20 police vehicles descended on the park and rounded up dozens of men, forcing them to be photographed, fingerprinted, and undergo blood testing at the local police station. Such discriminatory actions are not only grievous violations of human rights, they also work to seriously undermine efforts to effectively prevent and treat HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Singling out sexual minorities for arrest and documentation sabotages efforts to control HIV by perpetuating an environment of fear and mistrust that inhibits open discussion and service-seeking behavior. In such hostile conditions, revealing one's sexual
behavior and risk factors becomes a liability, driving many MSM outside the healthcare system. Experiences of discrimination have also been linked to increases in high risk sexual behavior among MSM.
Reports of forced blood tests are especially disturbing. Forced testing is a violation of internationally recognized rights to security of person and to privacy. Gay men and other MSM must have access to high-quality health services that provide for their
specific needs. The government should invest in friendly and competent services that MSM will actually want to visit, rather than conduct forced testing in an environment without any guarantee of counseling, referral, or confidentiality.
In China, MSM are 45 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population, and they accounted for roughly one third of new infections in 2007. While homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, authorities have continued to clamp
down on non-governmental organizations, public gatherings and artistic events geared toward the gay and lesbian community.
"This is an unfortunate reminder that decriminalization of homosexuality is only the first step on the road to human dignity and effective health services for sexual minorities," said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Officer of the MSMGF.
"Legal protection from discrimination and abuse is essential to ensuring the health and well being of most at risk populations."
These events represent a major step backwards in China's response to its domestic epidemic. Incidents like this run the risk of squandering the notable progress China has already made toward addressing HIV among sexual minorities. If authorities do not put a stop to these kinds of abuses, the country will miss a significant opportunity to model a more forward-looking, evidence-based and ultimately effective approach to this deadly pandemic.
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is an expanding network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM. Guided by a Steering Committee of 20 members from 17 countries
situated mainly in the Global South, and with administrative and fiscal support from AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), the MSMGF works to promote MSM health and human rights worldwide through advocacy, information exchange, knowledge production, networking, and capacity building.
Read the Global Times article on the incident