Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender (LGBT) people in Africa face discrimination and in many countries imprisonment just for being who they are. In some countries, gay people even face the death penalty. Gay people face a tough life in many countries in Africa.
For instance, in December 2015, John and David met at a bar in Lilongwe, Malawi and went home to John’s house. They stayed together until 3am and then David walked home. David was confronted by the police, who demanded to know where he had been and what he had been doing. When he hesitated, the police beat him and David told the truth – he had stayed with John and had consensual sex. The police, by this time joined by local people, then went to John’s house and confronted him. His home was then ransacked and both John and David were threatened with being burned alive.
They were both then taken into custody and beaten by the police. They were handcuffed and taken to a clinic where they were stripped naked, had invasive examinations and were forced to take a HIV test. Pictures of them were taken and then posted on social media. The story was reported in the press under headlines such as “Police arrest ‘gay’ suspects”. They were then charged with sodomy, which is against the law in Malawi.
This is not only a problem for Men who have Sex with Men (MSM); in some places where it is illegal to be gay, half of MSM are in relationships with women and have children. As these MSM often do not get tested for HIV, many of them do not know that they carry the HIV virus. This means that they pass the virus on to others.
At the Elton John AIDS Foundation we are determined to stop young people getting infected with HIV and making sure those who were sadly born with HIV get help so the virus isn’t spread any further. We are outraged that in many African countries LGBT people are too frightened to admit their sexuality and access health clinics; as a result, it is often difficult for them to get tested for HIV, so many are unaware that they carry the virus and go on to infect other people. As a result we have launched an LGBT Fund to save the lives of LGBT people in Africa. It will focus mainly in countries where, in some cases, half of the LGBT population is HIV-positive. That is absolutely staggering. These people are not getting tested for HIV, not getting medication if they are HIV positive and living with HIV without any support.
The LGBT Fund will immediately support our partners in those countries with catastrophic levels of HIV infection. We are delighted to announce that the United States Government has pledged to match all donations up to $5 million – which will mean we can invest $10 million to help LGBT people, particularly in countries where they are least supported.
We need people to help us reach that fundraising goal. It will allow us to:
- Equip local organisations to scale up testing of HIV, counselling and treatment for LGBT people
- Provide emergency funds to individuals and organisations that fear for their safety
- Make sure LGBT people can receive medical help without being stigmatised.
Could you help us to reach that goal?