Global health and human rights face challenges of homophobic laws, abuse, neglect, violence

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Kaiser Family Foundation releases brief from discussions on The U.S. Government and Global LGBT Health

How did it happen that 10 years into the United States’ unprecedented and ambitious response to the global AIDS pandemic some of the largest obstacles between HIV prevention, care and treatment and those most in need of those services stand in the countries where efforts have been most intensive? What are the next steps, when even as momentum has gathered in recent years to confront assaults on the lives, rights, dignity and health of sexual minorities, a backlash of new laws and homophobic rhetoric is gaining ground with at least equal momentum? Can donor aid be inextricably linked to human rights, and also to health?

These are some of the questions the Kaiser Family Foundation brought together a group of global health and human rights experts to discuss in October and again last month, leading to a brief released today, The U.S. Government and Global LGBT Health: Opportunities and Challenges in the Current Era. The brief includes a summary of U.S. responses so far to criminalization, discrimination, neglect, and violence against sexual minorities, including gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual individuals. It includes breakdowns by country, and by donor dollars given to places where laws criminalizing homosexuality stand next to global health programs. It includes a look at missed opportunities so far, including lack of data on the impact of HIV on populations rendered invisible by criminalization and institutionalized neglect, and the lack of a cohesive strategy to address homophobic abuse, policy and legislation. And it includes discussion of immediate needs including reaching those in danger, and working directly with organizations that will provide services denied by governments.

The participants in the two discussions, who were drawn from experts working in government, multilateral institutions, nongovernment organizations, academia and think tanks also cited opportunities and cautions now, to come up with recommendations to strengthen human rights based responses. The resulting list spans the spoken (“articulate the importance of continuing U.S.-funded health services”) to the concrete (step up responses to threats faced by gay, lesbian, transgender and other sexual minorities in Uganda and Nigeria now), the potentially symbolic (a U.S. Special Envoy on sexual minorities rights issues) and the specific (review aid portfolios to determine who is being funded now).

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