Gay meet in Hyderabad urges society to accept them

November 27th, 2008 - 10:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Nov 27 (IANS) The first ever convention of male homosexuals held here urged the society to change its attitude towards them and accept them. Over 1000 gays from across Andhra Pradesh attended the convention organised by Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society and two NGOs. A cultural programme was held after the convention.

This was the first time that gays held a state-level meeting with some activists from Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and other cities voicing concern over social stigma they faced.

They demanded that the society accept them as a part of it. “We face social stigma. Who is to be blamed. We or the society which failed to understand us?” asked Rex, an activist from Bangalore.

The convention also called for an end to harassment by the police, who arrest gays under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). “The law considers sex between men as unnatural and due to police harassment many gays go underground,” said B. Gangaiah, head, HIV-AIDS division, Hindustan Latex Family Promotion Trust.

The AIDS Control Society called for removing stigma and discrimination towards the high risk community, saying it is key to HIV prevention efforts.

Sujatha Rao, director general of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), called for amending certain sections of the IPC. “It is difficult to access the gay community and encourage it to access HIV care and prevention services unless certain clauses of the section are amended,” she said.

She said there was a greater need to reach out to the vulnerable communities and to encourage them to take confident and decisive steps in arresting the epidemic.

“HIV prevalence among the general population in India is 0.38 per cent while among the gay, it is seven percent, and in Andhra Pradesh it is 17 percent. Given this scenario, it is the need of the hour that this mostly hidden community partners the programme.”

An empowered community takes decisive steps, like the transgender community in Tamil Nadu which overcame difficult conditions to become a force to reckon with in reducing HIV prevalence, Rao said.

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