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Gay decriminalisation to help tackle spread of HIV/AIDS

Health leaders are urging commonwealth countries to remove ancient British Empire laws that make homosexuality illegal, claiming it will help to reduce the spread of the disease
 Homosexuality is still illegal in 41 commonwealth natio..

In a renewed effort to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS, health leaders are asking for laws that deem gay sex to be illegal to be abolished in commonwealth countries, the French news agency AFP is reporting.

The old laws, many of which were enacted during the colonial period, are still in place in 41 out of the 54 commonwealth nations.

But HIV/AIDS campaigners believe such statutes make it difficult to promote prevention techniques and encourage people to seek health advice.

The 41 countries with the laws still in place will now be asked to remove them at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which is taking place in Perth, Australia at the end of October.

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Cases of HIV/AIDS are particularly prevalent in commonwealth countries, which, despite only holding 30 percent of the global population, has 60 percent of all cases of HIV/AIDS in the world.

The Australian representative for the Eminent Persons Group, Michael Kirby, commented on the proposed reforms during an ABC broadcast.

He said: “It's a very special British problem. And the problem is it makes it very difficult to get messages about HIV out.

“But you need to remove the criminal laws, and that is what the Eminent Persons Group is suggesting for the CHOGM meeting.”

Meanwhile, while speaking to AFP, the Executive Director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Rob Lake, added: “When people are forced to hide, or cover who they are and what they do... they are not the people who get the messages about prevention, get the messages about treatment.

“That's one of the factors in these high rates in Commonwealth countries.”

He also said that although the laws are not acted upon in every country where they still exist, the very nature of their being attaches a stigma and fear to being gay, which might prevent people from seeking help and advice on how to avoid being infected with HIV/AIDS. 

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