April 27, 2020 at 7:18 pm PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Countries urged to stop targeting LGBTQ people during coronavirus pandemic
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UNAIDS and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights on Monday said governments around the world must stop targeting LGBTQ people during the coronavirus pandemic.

“HIV has taught us that violence, bullying and discrimination only serve to further marginalize the people most in need,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in a press release her organization released with MPact. “All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, are entitled to the right to health, safety and security, without exception. Respect and dignity are needed now more than ever before.”

The press release notes governments and law enforcement officials have targeted LGBTQ people during the pandemic.

Ugandan police late last month raided an LGBTQ shelter in the country’s capital of Kampala and arrested 20 of its residents. The Associated Press reported Ugandan authorities have charged them with violating the country’s social distancing rules.

The UNAIDS and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights press release notes Ulysease Roca Terry, a 25-year-old gay Belizean man with HIV, died earlier this month after his arrest for violating the curfew imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the Central American country. Media reports indicate police officers beat Terry after they arrested him.

Philippine police also publicly humiliated three LGBTQ people, among others, after they violated the country’s coronavirus curfew. UNAIDS and MPact note a police captain apologized after the incident — during which officers forced the three LGBTQ people to dance and kiss each other — went viral.

Deputy Hungarian Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén on March 31 introduced an omnibus bill with a proposal that would ban transgender people from legally changing their gender in the country. The Hungarian Parliament the day before overwhelmingly approved a controversial measure that gave Prime Minister Viktor Orbán more authority in order to combat the pandemic in his country.

“We are receiving reports that government and religious leaders in some countries are making false claims and releasing misinformation about COVID-19 that has incited violence and discrimination against LGBTI people,” said MPact Executive Director George Ayala. “Organizations and homes are being raided, LGBTI people are being beaten, and there has been an increase in arrests and threatened deportation of LGBTI asylum seekers.”

People with HIV more vulnerable to coronavirus

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world, with 985,443 of them in the U.S. The global pandemic has killed 210,611 people.

People with HIV are among those who are at higher risk for the coronavirus. Activists around the world with whom the Los Angeles Blade has spoken in recent weeks say the pandemic has also left LGBTQ people even more vulnerable because lockdowns and curfews prevent them from working.

Diálogo Diverso, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Ecuador, earlier this month created an “emergency fund” to help LGBTQ people and Venezuelan migrants during the pandemic. Danilo Manzano, the group’s director, told the Blade that poverty has made the coronavirus’ impact even worse on the aforementioned groups.

“They don’t have the financial resources to be able to support themselves day-to-day,” said Manzano. “It is therefore a very difficult situation.”

UNAIDS and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects in an April 8 statement noted the pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on sex workers because of lockdown measures and their inability to access government assistance programs created in response to the pandemic. American advocacy and HIV/AIDS service organizations have also demanded coronavirus treatment and prevention programs include safeguards to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Now more than ever, we must stand together to protect and promote the health and human rights of LGBTI people worldwide,” said UNAIDS and MPact in their press release.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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