In Nigeria, anti-gay laws can lead to punishments including 14 years in prison or even death by stoning. Gay men and women are banned from holding meetings or organizing in groups, and anyone who supports the union of a gay couple could spend a decade behind bars.
A new study from the University of Washington School of Public Health suggests laws criminalizing homosexuality, like those in Nigeria, reinforce stigma in ways that harm efforts to stop the HIV epidemic. In African countries, anti-gay laws create fear and block access to vital HIV prevention, care, and treatment.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, recognizes the negative role of stigma in the fight against HIV. However, researchers say, the program has done little to address the primary driver of stigma in Africa—anti-homosexuality laws.
Amy Hagopian, Associate Professor of Global Health, is first author on the study. Co-authors include Deepa Rao, Aaron Katz, Sallie Sanford and Scott Barnhart.