Feature story

Anti-homophobia campaign to end discrimination in Latin America

16 May 2009

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia which is an initiative to end discrimination and demand respect for the rights of homosexuals, transsexuals and lesbians.

Many countries in Latin America have planned activities to celebrate the Day such as marches, festivals, awareness raising workshops and campaigns to promote respect for sexual diversity.

UNAIDS Regional Director Dr Cesar Antonio Nuñez highlighted the need for all Latin American countries to observe the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia as an opportunity to strengthen the work being done around human rights to create a more effective response to AIDS in the region.

One of the new initiatives of this year’s celebration is an on-line campaign displaying messages against homophobia and transphobia. The campaign, which runs under the theme “For sexual rights and sexual diversity” was produced by the regional offices of UNAIDS and UNDP in collaboration with the Latin American Network of Transsexual People (REDLACTRANS), the Association for integral health and citizenship in Latin America (ASICAL) and the Latin American and Caribbean Council of AIDS Services Organizations for LAC (LACCASO).

“Let’s put an end to violence, let’s overcome the indifference” or “Homophobia accelerates the spread of HIV” are some of the campaign messages being displayed on web sites and played on YouTube. UNAIDS Brazil has adapted these spots into Portuguese.

Sex between men is the main mode of HIV transmission in Latin America and homophobia and stigma remain significant stumbling blocks to an effective response to the epidemic. Stigma and homophobia increase the isolation of gays, bisexuals and transgender people making them more reluctant to come forward, be identified and get advice and HIV services.

Many Latin American countries have laws that defend sexual freedom and orientation. For example with law reform in Nicaragua and Panama over the past 12 months, there are now no states in Latin America which criminalize homosexual relations.

Yet Latin America is widely regarded as having a long way to go to successfully counter homophobia, or “fear or hatred of homosexuals.” According to the UN, homosexual and trans people are frequently insulted, fired from jobs, and barred from community activities. .