Teachers in Terengganu State identified students who they described as having ‘effeminate’ behaviour and the boys are attending a four day religious and physical education and counselling course to discourage them from being gay.
The Malaysian government is well known for their HIV response for injecting drug users through the provision of harm reduction services such as needle and syringe programmes. However targeting one single group such as gay men from populations who are at particular risk of HIV is threatening the success of the country’s overall response and discredits the government’s commitment to tackling the epidemic.
“This is extremely worrying,” said Christine Stegling, Associate Director at the Alliance. “Under no circumstances should children be persecuted for their personality and identity.
“By stigmatising them we agree with Women’s Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil that it may put their mental health at risk. But we are very concerned that their physical health is also at risk as they may be afraid to access appropriate medical services, which increases their possibilities of contracting STIs and HIV.”
This approach further stigmatises people because of their sexual identity in a country where homosexuality is illegal which directly impacts on the ability of health service providers to reach all people in society with health services that meet their needs and prevents HIV infection.
“Countries need to have a comprehensive approach to prevent new HIV infections and this includes all people, no matter what their sexual orientation,” said Stegling.
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