Homofobia free Honduras?

Alto a la homofobia (Down with homophobia)

This past weekend I went to Tegucigalpa, which is the capital of the Central American country Honduras.  While cruising along down town (perhaps a bad choice of word – by cruising I mean walking) I luckily noticed some graffiti depicted in the images seen here.  One said “Alto a la homofobia” meaning “Down with homophobia”  and several others pictured a rainbow, the international symbol synonymous with the gay pride movement, with the words “Diversidad” (below), meaning diversity.  I was so taken aback, because such graffiti to me symbolized an awareness of gay rights and homophobia, and a desire to strive for equality.  I personally though this was huge in such a machismo society, where homosexuality is frowned upon, and rarely, if ever discussed.

So, how then does this relate to HIV transmission?  In the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, HIV remains a concentrated epidemic, meaning it is centered largely at-risk populations, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers, although it is beginning to spread to the general population.  According to USAID, while the general prevalence rate in Honduras is .7 %, estimates on prevalence among MSM range from 4.5% to 9.7%.  MSM are obviously disproportionally affected by HIV in Honduras.    Reasons for this would include stigma against homosexuality, lack of availability of education regarding HIV available to MSM and lack of MSM friendly healthcare resources and providers available.  Many MSM may be forced into having sex in secret places, and may not be able to negotiate condom use, because either condoms are not made available to them, or they do not have the education to understand that unprotected sexual contact between two men could result in HIV infection.

If some small groups continue to work like they are working, and spread such messages of tolerance to the general public such as graffiti (I’m generally not a fan of graffiti but here I’ll make an exception) and  homosexuality begins to”come out of the closet” in Honduras, meaning people are encouraged to show tolerance and accept diversity, perhaps MSM will feel more comfortable seeking health services, and HIV programmers and the government will begin to target HIV prevention messaging and education to this currently stigmatized group.  Diversidad!

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