(CPV) – A discussion on speaking out to stop discrimination against men who have sex with men (MSM) was held on May 17, in Hanoi, in commemoration of the International Day against Homophobia.
The discussion, co-organised by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), FHI, the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (ISEE), Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) and Family Health International (FHI), aims to raise awareness on the stigma, discrimination and violence faced by homosexual and transgender people in Viet Nam.
Stigma, discrimination and violence exist
Every day in Vietnam, stigma, discrimination and violence threaten the basic constitutional rights of men who have sex with men (MSM), including access to the information, products and services that they need for their well-being. There is a special concern regarding MSM’s access to HIV services, as HIV prevalence among MSM was 14% in 2009.
Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Country Director and Chair of the Joint UN Team on HIV in Vietnam speaking at the discussion.
Discrimination against men who have sex with men is driving them away from health services, which in turn helps sexually transmitted infections and HIV to spread, according to a study by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), FHI and the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (ISEE).
Stigma and discrimination also fuel violence towards MSM. A study on gender-based violence and MSM by the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) found that violence comes not only from strangers, but also from acquaintances in the community and from within their own families. This issue, however, is rarely addressed in programmes on gender-based violence and family violence.
Vietnam is taking action to address the situation
The recently developed Guidelines for Comprehensive HIV Interventions for MSM provide a framework to address stigma and discrimination on a broad scale. A toolkit guiding the understanding and reducing stigma related to MSM and HIV developed by UNAIDS and the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS) is being used by MSM community groups across the country. In addition, networks of MSM are growing increasingly stronger and MSM are now more confident to speak out against stigma & discrimination.
Speaking at the discussion, Mr. Phan Huy Hien, Chair of the National MSM Technical Working Group said that members of the National MSM Technical Working Group have increased from seven provinces in 2009 to nine provinces in 2010 and are continuing to grow. If we do not speak out and take action ourselves to protect our rights, it will be very difficult to effectively fight the stigma and discrimination against MSM.”
“The United Nations has made human rights and gender equality a priority for the next five years,” said Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Country Director and Chair of the Joint UN Team on HIV in Vietnam. “We need collective and stronger actions to create enabling social and legal environments to ensure the respect of human rights of men who have sex with men and transgender people in Vietnam.”