World Aids Day: Safe sex for homosexuals? The government doesn't care
Activists fear HIV cases in the gay community will only rise with Section 377’s upholding, keeping condoms meant for gay men out of the market
A United Nations health report published on the eve of World AIDS Day, observed globally today, has revealed that men who have sex with men, are 24 times more likely to contract HIV. This once again puts the spotlight on the apathy of law enforcers in India towards giving options for the LGBT community to practice safe sex. While a condom preferable for anal sex was meant to be launched in 2011 according to a 2010 Union Health Ministry press release, the Supreme Court verdict to uphold Section 377 of IPC in 2014 -- making anal sex a punishable offence -- meant that the product never saw the light of day.
In 2011, 518 HIV cases were reported among homosexuals in Maharashtra. This almost doubled in 2013, when 958 homosexuals were said to be infected with the virus. However, in some relief for the state, the numbers dropped significantly last year to 448.
Officials claim that the rising sensitisation among the community has prevented the infection from spreading. "Through intervention programmes, we have been able to attain such success rate," said Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director of Mumbai District Aids Control Society.
But, according to LGBT activist Harish Iyer, the fear of arrest post the SC verdict, is the reason for the drop in numbers. "In the aftermath of Section 377 being re-established by the SC, there is more fear among gay people. They are scared to reveal their orientation, when diagnosed with HIV. So, the number of cases haven’t really reduced, but people are scared to reveal it post the announcement," he said.
Bindumadhav Khire, gay activist and founder of Samapathik Trust said that while it’s likely that the number of cases has gone down, most cases are still going unreported. "I have had cases where a homosexual has been blackmailed, when his identity was revealed," he said.
Safe sex gone to the dumps
In 2010, Family Planning Promotion Trust and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) had announced that it would be launching a first-of-its kind gay condom, Spice Up, targetted at the gay community. "The condoms for anal sex are bigger and offer more lubrication. Often, many gay men avoid carrying lubricants, so they end up having casual sex without any protection," said a member from the community.
The condom was to hit stores by 2011. But, due to unknown reasons, it never took off. Vinod Aurora, joint secretary of NACO, which had announced the launch of Spice Up, said he was unaware of such scheme.
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