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Fiji gay sex ban would spread HIV/AIDS

Fri 2 Sep 2005 In: New Zealand Daily News

A call to criminalise homosexual sex in Fiji will endanger public health and foster the spread of HIV/AIDS, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says. The Foundation has expressed deep concern at the likely public health impact of a proposal by the Fijian Methodist Church for a mass march to pressure their Government to criminalise gay and lesbian sex, after a Fijian high court judge ruled that consensual gay sex in private was protected by the country's constitution and was not illegal. "The church's intention is completely contrary to good public health practice," says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. "The spread of HIV is facilitated by the prejudice, discrimination and marginalisation of minority communities that this proposed parade and law change would create. The result would be to drive Fijian gay men deep underground where they would be almost impossible to reach with HIV education and prevention programmes and resources such as condoms and lube. Thus this proposal, if adopted by the Fijian Government, would facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS in Fiji." Ms Le Mesurier says that one of the reasons New Zealand was so successful in its early reaction to the presence of HIV was the passage of law decriminalising homosexual behaviour and extending human rights legislation to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or the presence of disease. This enabled gay men, intravenous drug users and sex workers to openly form, and associate with, organisations aimed at providing HIV/AIDS support and prevention. Ms Le Mesurier says that while the Fijian Methodist Church is entitled to hold and express its beliefs on the issue of homosexuality, it should not seek to impose those beliefs on all people through the secular mechanisms of the Government and the law. "Neither will this proposed rally speak for all Christians. There are many expressions of Christian faith in the world that do not share the Fijian Methodist Church's view of homosexuality. "International health authorities are already warning of a potential HIV/AIDS time bomb threatening the Pacific. There could not be a worse time to foster suppression and silence around sexuality and HIV."    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Friday, 2nd September 2005 - 12:00pm

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