The Zimbabwean government has declared that it will create special health centres for homosexual men, in a bid to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS among groups that practice same-sex orientation. However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa says this is not a change in the country’s stance on sexual minorities.
The Zimbabwean permanent secretary for health and child care, Gerald Gwinji, said the proposed plan to establish the drop-in centres for homosexual men was in its planning stages. The National Aids Council (NAC), which is advocating for the establishment of these centres in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, and Kwekwe, will call them “Men’s Health Centres”.
The NAC said it has noted that unprotected homosexual sex, especially among men— together with unprotected heterosexual sex — was among the main transmission routes for HIV.
Evidence from the UNICEF website suggests that Zimbabwe has a prevalence rate of 13.7% among adults, making it one of the five countries hardest hit by HIV and AIDS globally.
In fact, due to the illegal nature of sex work and homosexuality in Zimbabwe, these groups have not been included in the country’s national HIV and AIDS strategic plan, which presents huge barriers for sex workers and men who have sex with men to access HIV services. This ultimately hampers any reduction of AIDS-related illnesses.
Despite this development, presidential spokesperson, George Charamba said that same-sex marriages remained banned in Zimbabwe and that this would not change any time soon.
In fact, when quizzed during a recent interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos whether his country might change its stance on sexual minorities, Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa replied that it is banned and that it was his duty to obey the constitution. Also so that those people who want it decriminalized should canvass for it.
Judging by his response, it’s clear that this move is more about the country’s health goals than in giving the gay community civil rights. It may be some time yet before same-sex unions will be decriminalized in Zimbabwe.
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