Gay Sex Bans Linked to High HIV Rates

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The Study

It turns out, criminalizing gay sex leaves open a high risk of increased HIV rates in Africa.

This information was recently confirmed by a study from Johns Hopkins University, according to the National AIDS Map. The research team from Johns Hopkins then presented their study at the International AIDS Conference.

To get these results, the research team worked with 8,133 men who have sex with other men (MSM) from 2011 to 2018 from the continent of Africa. These men, who came from varying countries within sub-Saharan Africa and had a median age of 23, answered questionnaires and took HIV tests. Plus, researchers classified the countries of origin by the level of gay sex criminalization. Their list went as follows:

  • No criminalization (four countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Rwanda)
  • Some criminalization (less than eight years in prison, four countries: Cameroon, Senegal, Togo and eSwatini)
  • Severe criminalization (more than ten years in prison, two countries: Gambia and Nigeria)

In addition, researchers noted if countries placed legal barriers against the registration or operation of civil society organizations offering services for MSM. Three of the countries, Gambia, Nigeria, and Cameroon, hold such laws.

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The Results

In the end, Johns Hopkins University researchers found that 8 percent of men that were infected with HIV came from countries where gay sex is not criminalized. Meanwhile, 20% came from countries with some criminalization and 52% from countries with dramatic laws. After adjusting for age and education level, Johns Hopkins found that men in countries where gay sex is banned were 2.21 times more likely to have HIV and men with several criminalization laws were 4.65 times more likely.

As for the why, the Johns Hopkins team did not go so far as to explore that aspect. One could hypothesize that the lack of supportive services and accurate information plays a factor. However, more research is needed in order to say for sure.

Source: National AIDS Map,

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