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Is Zimbabwe changing its attitude towards gay sex?

Is Zimbabwe changing its attitude towards gay sex?

Emmerson Mnangagwa

In an attempt to curb growing HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSM), Zimbabwe is opening a special health center for gay men.

Permanent Health Secretary Gerald Gwinji announced the move saying after the National AIDS Council (Nac) noticed the high levels unprotected sex between men. According to UNAIDS only one in seven MSM in Zimbabwe (14.1%) know their HIV status.

Still in the planning stages, the ‘Men’s Health Centers’ will open in five cities, including the capital Harare. They will be drop-in centers for men to access not only access condoms but to get peer support.

Zimbabwe criminalizes homosexual sex which has been a huge barrier for MSM in accessing information, testing and medication.

‘As a consequence of this punitive law, national statistics are rarely available,’ said HIV portal, Avert, in its Zimbabwe profile.

‘Criminalizing men who have sex with men drives this vulnerable group away from HIV services. As a result, many do not know their HIV status, let alone access treatment.

‘However, Zimbabwean organisations that support the rights of men who have sex with men and their access to HIV services do exist, such as Gays and Lesbians Zimbabwe (GALZ). Many are routinely punished and shutdown or have their members arrested.’

A critical service

GALZ is working closely with Nac on the Men’s Health Centers.

‘The drop-in centers will provide space for the community to access services in a non-discriminatory environment,’ GALZ director, Chester Samba, told Daily News.

Even though the centers are a welcome move, the Zimbabwe government is not changing its laws on homosexuality anytime soon.

Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised he would not repeal laws banning homosexuality when he took office in January.

More recently, a presidential spokesperson told Daily News, same-sex marriage would not become law in the near future.

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