Society’s attitude towards minority groups in Malawi has made them to go into hiding a development which is negatively affecting their access to HIV and AIDS care, treatment and prevention.
Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) Programmes Manager Rodney Chalera bemoaned the tendency which he said prevents the concerned groups from developing health seeking behaviors.
Speaking during a media forum review meeting, he attributed the practice to ignorance and challenged the media to be instrumental in reducing homophobia and breaking the trend arguing that minority rights are human rights and stressed on the need to promote a society of tolerance and co-existence.
He noted the tendency starts at individual level extending to other service providers who discriminate the groups and are not comfortable serving them with different services.
Coupled with institutionalised homophobia where the LGBT community is left behind in policies, laws and structures, Chalera pointed out that in the end it leaves no options to guide service providers in as far as policy or guidelines are concerned.
“At the same time because they are afraid of the environment, they are afraid that the services are not even available, they may not demand even if the right to health and any other social services are a right to everyone; they may not demand that because they go underground.
“Unfortunately when they go underground the activities don’t stop; they still happen underground as such people don’t have adequate, right information about prevention or how they can protect themselves or how they can practice safer sex practices, HIV prevalence goes up, STI prevalence also goes up
“The reason is information is not being made available to them and the same time, the health seeking behavior is not being cultivated,” explained the CEDEP official.
The media taskforce was developed through a series of consultations and workshops involving human rights journalists, CEDEP in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).