25 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Gays Cry Foul Over Stigmatisation By Nurses

A SENIOR official with the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has said members were facing stigma and discrimination from public health care providers.

The official, who requested anonymity, said this was having a negative impact on Zimbabwe's efforts to halt new HIV infections.

The revelations come at a time when leading researchers and activists are meeting in Melbourne, Australia, at an AIDS conference to take stock of the world's efforts to halt the pandemic.

"We have a number of our members who are infected with sexually transmitted infections who have visited public hospitals and ended up coming back without being treated because of questions they were asked by nurses," he said.

"For example if one has developed genital watts in the anal (area) they are asked how the watts developed and why they developed there. Some of them are telling us that health care workers at some point mob them after divulging that they are gay and ask them how gays and lesbians engage in sex?"

He said this had resulted in some of their members declining to seek medical attention because of the "intrusion into their privacy by health care workers".

The official said the stigma was having a negative impact on the country's fight to halt new HIV infections.

"Some of our members suffering from STI are taking up to a year before seeking treatment because they are afraid to be asked these embarrassing questions," he said.

He said GALZ has had to assist such members to seek treatment outside country "because of the stigma and politics associated with homosexuality in Zimbabwe".

The HIV prevalence rate in Zimbabwe stands at 14 percent, down from 25 percent a decade ago.

About 1.5 million people, out of the country's 13 million people, are living with HIV. Homosexuality has never been accepted in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe has in the past described gays as "worse than dogs".

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa could not be reached for comment as he was said to be attending the 20th International AIDS Conference in Australia which ends Friday.

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