Meanwhile take action by voting and sharing on Take Action’s site, here is an excerpt of the letter to your respective political leaders:
Your Excellency, HIV remains a serious public health crisis for the Commonwealth, which comprises 30% of the world’s population but over 60% of all people living with HIV. In many Commonwealth countries an effective public health response to HIV is hindered by laws which criminalise and target groups who are particularly vulnerable to HIV. In many Commonwealth countries, populations of sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men and transgender communities have much higher HIV prevalence rates than the general population. People among these communities face significant barriers in accessing HIV programs which arise from discriminatory laws and policies and by laws that criminalise homosexuality; sexual transmission of/exposure to HIV; drug use; and commercial sex work. Women and girls are also highly vulnerable to HIV because of entrenched gender inequalities. Law reform to address the property and inheritance rights of women and girls and to strengthen violence protections can help to reduce HIV vulnerability. These laws must be reformed if the most at-risk populations are to be reached and HIV prevalence in Commonwealth countries reduced. The next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) takes place in Perth, Western Australia on 28-30 October 2011.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Leaders of former British Empire countries that continue to outlaw homosexuality will be asked next week to reverse their bans in a bid to reduce their disproportionately high HIV infection rates, an official said Tuesday.
Leaders of 53 countries will meet in the western Australian city of Perth for three days in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
The meeting’s agenda will include a recommendation to legalise homosexuality, said Michael Kirby, Australia’s representative in the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group.
Of those countries attending, 42 still outlaw homosexuality, including Malaysia, which is prosecuting its opposition leader, and many African and Caribbean countries. Host Australia and Britain itself long ago repealed their own bans on gay sex.
Kirby, an openly gay retired High Court judge, blamed the British influence on former colonies for high rates of HIV-AIDS. Most of these countries outlaw homosexual practices, which the rival French Empire legalised in 1791.
“It’s a very special British problem, and the problem is it makes it very difficult to get messages about HIV out,” Kirby told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
“You need to remove the criminal laws. That is what the Eminent Persons Group is suggesting at the … meeting next week,” he added.
The Malaysia-chaired 11-member advisory group was established at the last summit in 2009 to make recommendations to reform the Commonwealth’s institutions. The representatives express personal views that do not necessarily reflect the views of any government.
Malaysia’s law banning sodomy is the basis for prosecuting opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomising a 26-year-old male former aide. He denies the charge.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations executive director Rob Lake said the Commonwealth forum represents 30 per cent of the world’s population but more than 60 per cent of HIV-AIDS cases.
He said there is evidence in Africa and elsewhere that laws against homosexuality drive gay men underground and out of reach of sexual health campaigns.
“They create a stigmatising environment in which gay men hide what they do and who they are so they don’t access diagnosis for HIV, treatment or preventative measures” such as condoms, Lake said.
The Australian government forced the repeal of the last state laws against gay sex in 1997.
All countries represented at next week’s forum are former British colonies except for Mozambique and Rwanda.