Praise for Malawi’s New Focus on HIV Among LGBTI Community

April 13, 2015

This article first appeared in Erasing 76 Crimes.

Malawi plans to intensify its fight against AIDS in the country’s LGBTI community, winning praise from LGBTI activists for its efforts.

The southeast African country is seeking more than US $388,000 from the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV and AIDS for the program, which will provide testing, counseling, treatment, condoms, and advice on how to prevent risky behavior among Malawi’s LGBTI population, estimated to number more than 38,000 people. The intended beneficiaries are primarily men who have sex with men.

“We are commending the Government action to include [gays] in the Global fund proposal for funding,” said Gift Trapence, executive director of the LGBTI-friendly Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP), in an article in the Nyasa Times.

However, Trapence said, more needs to be done.

“It is now a high time to stop being… double faced. Some Government Ministers have been very homophobic by trying to demonise and ostricise sexual minorities while on the other hand the same Government is endorsing HIV policies and proposals to the [Global Fund], seeking funding that also include sexual minorities programmes,” he said.

He called for the repeal of Malawi’s law against same-sex intimacy, which is currently not being enforced while the High Court reviews whether it is constitutional.

“Malawi has progressive policies and on the other hand there are laws that acts as barriers in accessing services for sexual minorities,” Trapence said.

“It is government responsibility in making sure that all Malawians are able to enjoy the right to health [including gays]. That can only be achieved if all Malawians are able to receive non-discriminatory services regardless of race, religious background, region, age, gender, sexual orientation and other status. Hence the need to have laws that protect all people equally regardless of sexual orientation,” he said.

As the Nyasa Times article noted:

In 2009 a gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were arrested and convicted 14 years for publicly wedding.

But former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them following an outcry from the international community.

Currently, the High Court reviewing the case of three men who were convicted in 2011 and are serving sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years for practicing homosexuality.