Despite a veneer of progressive policymaking, bias against the rising number of men with HIV remains commonplace in Mozambique, deterring many from seeking treatment
In June, Mozambique dropped a colonial-era law criminalising homosexual activities. The change passed relatively quietly in the southern African country. After all, no one had ever been convicted.
A few weeks later, Tony Andrea felt like he was coming down with
malaria. The 22-year-old went to a government health clinic. Andrea is
gay and, despite the recently overturned prohibition, had always felt
safe being open about his sexuality. He certainly never suspected it
might interfere with his ability to access malaria treatment.
When he arrived at the clinic, “the nurse told me, ‘People like you, you lie a lot … You don’t have malaria,’” he says.
Andrea said he was not sure why she suspected he was gay, but he put
it down to his dress or speech. He demanded treatment, but the incident
left him shaken. “They are not at all prepared to take care of the LGBT
community,” he said of public health workers.
Aside from being demoralising, discrimination against men who have
sex with men is jeopardising government efforts to reduce the high
incidence of HIV and Aids.
At 11.5%, Mozambique has one of the 10 highest HIV rates in the world. But in Maputo, the capital, among men who have sex with men and are aged 25 years and older,
that rate nearly triples to 33.8%. Without access to hospital testing
and treatment services, the number will continue to rise. Some of those
men also have sex with women, so the virus will spread more widely among
The ministry of health launched a three-year accelerated HIV response
plan in 2013 and acknowledged that men who have sex with men are among
the social groups that could “perpetuate the HIV epidemic if services
are not provided for these hard-to-reach populations”.
Roberto Paulo is a programme officer for Lambda,
the country’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist
organisation, which offers a haven for those who have faced harassment
at health centres. Paulo says transgender people have been refused
services until they went home to change their clothes, while gay men
have been denied treatment for anal sexually transmitted infections. More...