Dozens of gay and bisexual men have been arrested in Nigeria for attending an HIV awareness event.
Police in Lagos State raided the Vincent Hotel Saturday around 3:30 p.m., reports Punch magazine, detaining at least 42 people.
A local who identified as Tunji told Punch there had been rumors “that the hotel harbors homosexuals” and “about 40 of them were caught in the act” in this mass arrest.
Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBT rights activist, told Reuters that the "act" was receiving HIV testing, counseling, and education. Nigeria has one of the biggest HIV epidemics in the world. A 2015 report counted 3.5 million people living with the virus, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
"These men were trying to save their lives and make their country better by preventing the spread of HIV," said Alimi, who has moved to Britain after receiving death threats.
A public relations officer of the Lagos State police confirmed that "42 suspected homosexuals were arrested and the hotel has been condoned off while investigation continues." The men are now awaiting trial.
Homosexuality, including LGBT events and organizations, has been banned in the central African nation since 2014, and police have aggressively arrested gay and bisexual men since; punishments include up to 14 years in prison and public whippings.
In April, Nigerian authorities arrested 53 men for attending an unofficial same-sex wedding, though the accused's lawyers said they were actually at a birthday party.