Several policy recommendations are made across the various sources that have been explored as part of this paper and the work of government, health and social workers, charities along with international services need to work in partnership to support the lives of the men who are in need of various interventions to enable access to safe standards of living. It is clear within the work that the criminalisation of same-sex practices has profound implications across MSM, leading to internalised stigma as well as possible discrimination from the wider society.
The government has a responsibility to offer support and inclusivity when addressing the HIV and AIDS responses laid out by campaign groups and within the research papers explored. Government input is relevant because for HIV, the access to treatment for all is crucial to reduce whole societies being at high risk of infection. Treatment should not be limited or based on sexuality and as the treatment is available within Zimbabwe for others, a call for equality in the receivership of treatment should be followed.
Recently an article was published stating that within Zimbabwe has plans backed by the National Aids Council (NAC) looking to open five new centres dedicated to the promotion of health needs of the minority community so that access to medical services is available to all.
The centres would provide the first steps in raising support especially for MSM groups who would have often feel that accessing traditional medical treatment centres would have been seen as off limits as laws criminalising homosexuality, come with the caveat that can hold the penalty of up to three years in jail. This in itself deters from treatment however no part of the law that states that it is illegal to provide healthcare to a group based on social or economic background. The new centres will be in place to complement and work alongside the work of GALZ that had created 2 centres previously with great success. The article expresses that the purpose of the centre would be about the creation of safe spaces, offering access to support and advice as well as being a health based centre. It wants to have an environment that offers non stigma thinking and an open service for all from both peers and professionals.
Campaigners, who for many years have led the fight for equality and the rights of all would agree that the development of the centre’s and support services would be considered part of the shift towards greater acceptance of minority groups in Zimbabwe, especially after the country’s ruler of 37 years, Robert Mugabe was forced to step down and many saw him as the main barrier to equality and feel that now is the start of a shift in the rights of minority groups.
Also in addressing equality, another call should be the addressing and the repealing of sodomy laws and other anti-gay laws so that the fear of discrimination and stigma does not affect the seeking of life saving treatments. Zimbabwe and many other countries need to look at the laws of other nations and human rights documents and look at ending the outdated legislation it has in place.
To critically support the risks to society, governments should look at the evidence that has been presented from NGOs or independent research that has been conducted highlighting not only the risk to life, but also the risk to medical services, poverty and breakdown in family and personal relationships based on laws that are limiting access to support, treatment and service provisions that are an entitlement for all.
It is clear from the research conducted within Zimbabwe and in the context of MSM, the opposite has been done and the blanket ban on talking or including MSM as a high risk group has potentiated the risk of not allowing true data on the numbers with HIV being published and thus limiting the availability of service provision and preventing the uptake of whatever services are available due to the stigma and fear of outing oneself as being of that group.
There are links to Human Rights laws as well that should be addressed in Zimbabwe. As the HIV infection remains treatable yet incurable, limits on the right to access to prevention and treatment services are limits on the right to life itself, making the repeal of laws that are anti-homosexual a life-saving as well as life enhancing intervention .
The evidence from this piece highlights that MSM remain at high risk for HIV infection in all settings, so HIV prevention for MSM is an urgent global public health priority not just in Zimbabwe. Governments need to look at making every effort, from legal and policy reform with urgency as HIV does not have boundaries in terms of who is at risk but everyone has the right to the same protections.
While looking at government support, the evidence may look at homosexuality but it needs to be remembered that MSM does not mean that they identify as homosexual, therefore many MSM have experienced homophobic stigma, discrimination both internally and externally which makes them fear a negative reaction and can force them to question their masculinity and what it means to be male in a patriarchal society.
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