Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Piot Rails Against Homophobia at AIDS 2008

The following is an excerptsfrom a speech given by UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot at a pre-conference event called "The Invisible Men: Gay Men and Other MSM [Men Who Have Sex With Men] in the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic." The meeting was sponsored by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV. IRMA presented at this meeting. Click here for pictures and a link to the slides.

"There's a terrible underfunding of programs for MSM, and
yet this is the population where the epidemic is in most countries.

"There's something that, as a straight man, I really have a hard time understanding, and that is this obsessive homophobia that I find, and which tells me that there's something going on in the heads of people that must mean that they are having a major problem with their own sexuality. [Applause.] There may be other explanations, but this is my opinion, and I have been everywhere in the world and have meet people like that, including in the UN system. But it is totally absurd, and it's also cruel. I think that the title of this meeting is only too apt. I'm really more and more convinced that homophobia is one of the top five obstacles to really stopping this epidemic. That's where I think we need to probably have a more scientific, businesslike approach to how we tackle this. There are some really fantastic programs, and here, I would really like to pay tribute to Jorge Saavedra and the Mexican government for supporting him with its anti-homophobia campaign, and the whole of the activist groups. But there are not too many countries where this is happening, and yet there are so many places where these programs are needed.

"In a growing number of countries, we may be reaching a tipping point where working with MSM becomes really possible, and where we can see results. That didn't happen by coincidence. It's proof that some of our joint advocacy and insistence are bearing fruit. I feel strongly that our accountability in UNAIDS is not only to governments or our Program Coordination Board, but to the people. The charter of the UN says, "We the people," and so there is that kind of accountability, also. But it's much harder to translate into government structures, that's for sure."

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