Originally published on Advocate.com December 05 2011 12:32 PM ET
A draconian antigay bill passed last week by the Nigerian senate is raising questions on how such legislation may affect on-the-ground HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention efforts.
The bill passed criminalizes same-sex marriages — which were already illegal in Africa’s most populous nation — with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.
The Associated Press reports:
A newly added portion of the bill, leveling 10 years in prison for those found guilty of organizing, operating or supporting gay clubs, organizations and meetings, worries advocates in Nigeria. They fear the law could be used against groups providing aid for HIV and AIDS outreach programs that traditionally consider gay men as an at-risk group. ….
But lawmakers playing to the deeply religious nation's dislike of gays and lesbians have said donor nations who threaten to cut aid over the bill can keep their assistance, putting at risk the lives of people reliant on anti-retroviral drugs.
How the law could affect HIV/AIDS programs such as the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is unclear. American and British officials have made clear that laws criminalizing homosexuality run counter to basic human rights, with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron threatening last month to withhold a type of bilateral aid to Commonwealth countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality.
Regarding similar antigay rhetoric and potential legislation in neighboring Cameroon, a State Department official told The Advocate last month, “We’ve made clear that as a matter of policy, we don’t consider discriminating against people for who they are and whom they love to be consistent” with eligibility for one aid government-sponsored development aid program, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (read the story here).
But President Obama has also stepped up ambitious goals to provide treatment for those living with HIV around the world, unveiling plans last week to secure treatment for six million people by the end of 2013 — two million more individuals than previously pledged.
The State Department has provided an emergency fund to on-the-ground LGBT organizations — many which provide crucial HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs —and over the next year will provide grants to better document LGBT human rights abuses, as well as establish organizational networks across borders.