Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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There ain’t no other way, I was born this way


Peer educator Fabiana Pérez 'The first time I was made up as a woman, I looked in the mirror and thought - yes, this is me!' © Gideon Mendel for the Alliance

So say the lyrics of Lady Gaga’s hit pop song. It could also form an anthem for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, where it serves as a potent reminder that despite all of the advances in human rights in recent years, we still find it difficult to embrace diversity around sexuality, with a direct negative impact on our ability to respond to HIV epidemics around the world.

Pop music icon Lady Gaga has agreed to be acting editor in chief of an international newspaper chain (Metro) on the 7th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (17 May 2011). We hope this will draw global attention to the fact that in all countries there continues widespread stigma and discrimination, and in many cases severe violence, against lesbian, gay (including men-who-have-sex-with-men), bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

The evidence

According to 2009 data published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People Association (ILGA), male to male relationships are illegal in 79 (out of 242) countries and in eight countries offences in relation to same sex activities still carry the death penalty.

You only have to look at a sample of the stories that the Alliance has covered to date in 2011 to see how this continuing discrimination is having an impact on the work of linking organisations across the globe:

Alliance role

Christine Stegling, senior advisor on human rights says: ‘The Alliance has been supporting communities around the world to take action on HIV for seventeen years, in many cases directly working with communities most affected by stigma and discrimination, such as transgender and men who have sex with men. In this time, we have seen first-hand the damage that discrimination causes when an individual’s sense of self-worth is undermined, especially when they are rejected by their local community.

‘The community based organisations we support often work with those people who have lost the ability to take care of themselves because no-one sees them as important. This includes lobbying governments to fulfil their obligations to protect transgender and MSM from violence and discrimination in public spaces, such as the health sector, and to ensure health services are targeted at those most vulnerable to HIV infection.

‘International days such as this one today serve as an opportunity to remind ourselves that, like it or not, we are all part of the same communities and we need to embrace our diversity, particularly around sexuality, to ensure that people have the ability to protect themselves from HIV infection.’

As Lady Gaga herself says, ‘Don’t hide yourself in regret, Just love yourself and you’re set’.

Stegling (who is also a member of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights) explains, ‘All communities have the right to equal access to high quality prevention, treatment and care services. We know that by placing human rights at the core of addressing HIV we can ensure meaningful participation by all leading to positive public health outcomes for all.’

This is one of the Alliance’s key messages as we prepare for the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS in June.

What’s Preventing Prevention?

Read more about how you can support the Alliance’s campaign ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?
We want to see all communities around the world able to prevent the spread of HIV. We’re calling on donors and governments to guarantee a more effective HIV prevention response that enables those at higher risk of HIV (including lesbian, gay, MSM, bisexual, transgender and intersex people) to access prevention services and programmes and realise their rights.

Take action

Stop homophobic legislation being passed in Uganda

End the violence against transgender people in Latin America

Demand a new political commitment to AIDS at the UN in June

Read more

Stigma, discrimination, persecution and murder: Transphobia in Latin America a blog by Marcella Romero, Regional Coordinator for the Latin America and the Caribbean Network of Transgender People

    As Lady Gaga says: Don’t hide yourself in regret, Just love yourself and you’re set.