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28 July 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

AIDS2016: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the opening press conference to the 21st International AIDS Conference (IAC), urging attendees to 'finish what we started' and end the epidemic. He noted the need to fast-track response and 'close the gaps' that obstruct access to services. In particular, he noted:

"We have to protect and promote the rights of people living with HIV, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs and prisoners."

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé added he was 'scared' because 'competing priorities' have led to a decline in donor support—"If we continue with this trend we will not be able to end AIDS by 2030. We will have a rebound in infections; we will have resistance, we will lose our investment and we will have to pay more later as we did with malaria." 

And South African actress Charlize Theron opened the conference with an impassioned plea, stating that 'AIDS doesn't discriminate on its own' and urging the world to embrace the tools at our disposal to beat the epidemic instead of making 'excuses.'

Also in attendance, Sir Elton John and Prince Harry co-hosted a youth focused special session. Sir John announced the launch of a joint $10 million LGBT Fund supported by PEPFAR and his foundation.

From the UN: UNAIDS launched a new 'Key Population Atlas'—an interactive data source and visualization tool for information on the AIDS epidemic among gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, prisoners, sex workers, and transgender people. 

UNAIDS health economist Erik Lamontagne calculated the cost of homophobia and found that discrimination against gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men could be costing Western Europe and North America over $49 billion, Asia and Pacific over $88 billion, and a worldwide cost of up to $119.1 billion GDP. 

Last month the Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favor of a resolution to appoint an independent expert to monitor human rights violations against LGBTI people. Dr. Henning Melber broke down the 'heated debate' that lead up to the vote, exposing the challenges still faced by advocates for LGBTI equality. The call for applications for the position has been posted on OHCHR.

HIV, Health, and Wellness:  The Lancet published a follow up on the global response to HIV in gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men, noting that in four years progress remains 'uneven' and that global efforts to address the epidemic are 'insufficient' to achieve an AIDS free generation.

During an AIDS 2016 pre-conference event hosted by MSMGF, participants discussed the demand for PrEP and lack of access, especially in low and middle income countries. And at pre-conference event 'No More Lip Service' global trans activists discussed how trans people have been excluded from PrEP research. 

In the UK some health experts warned that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are resorting to 'desperate measures' to acquire PrEP.

In countries where anti-LGBT legislation has increased, activists and health workers report difficulties in providing HIV treatment and prevention services to key populations. In Russia officials blacklisted the country's leading HIV NGOs as 'foreign agents' engaged in political activity. The identification prevents groups from receiving funds and could lead to organizations shutting down all activity.

In Uganda, where health providers say restrictive legislation and homophobia has kept LGBTI people from seeking help, organizations are bringing HIV testing and counseling to the only gay friendly bar. And a new report from China found that HIV response is hindered by police who target male, female, and trans sex workers who carry condoms.

In Australia leading AIDS organizations announced that AIDS is no longer a public health issue, with incidence of new infections 'too low' to be recorded. Though others warn that the 'HIV is no big deal' mentality is driving new cases, especially among young Australians. Meanwhile Indigenous community infectious disease expert James Ward warned that rates of sexually transmitted infections are increasing in the community even as funding cuts have slashed prevention programing. 

Separate studies from South Africa and the US both found that LGBTI individuals experience significantly poorer mental and physical health than heterosexuals. And data from the US CDC found that gay and bisexual male teens have higher drug use, leading to riskier sex than their straight counterparts.

After US-based research found that lesbian and bisexual women have poorer health than heterosexual women, a first of its kind study has been launched to identify and address the 'unique concerns' of these women. 

From the World of Politics:  For the first time Latin America hosted an international LGBTI human rights conference. Held in Uruguay, participants from governments, multilateral institutions, and rights organizations explored how to incorporate the rights of LGBTI people in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and launched the international Equal Rights Coalition for LGBTI people.

The Iranian government announced plans to hold an international human rights conference on Islamic Human Rights principles that will specifically exclude LGBT rights and other 'Western' issues that 'are not universally accepted.'

The US Congress held hearings to consider the 'First Amendment Defense Act' which would allow businesses and government workers to refuse service to LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs. And the US Republican National Committee added support for conversion therapy, anti-transgender laws, and opposition to same-sex marriage to the party platform.

Meanwhile, in Japan the conservative Liberal Democratic Party has included 'promoting understanding of sexual diversity' in its political platform.

From Tanzania, reports surfaced of a crackdown on homosexuality including a ban on 'obscene behavior.' Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu has also banned the import and sale of lubricant because it 'encourages homosexuality' and spreads HIV.

Zimbabwe's National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda told Parliament that homosexuality in prisons should no longer be ignored as it spreads HIV and TB.

The National Assembly of France voted in favor of an amendment allowing adults and 'emancipated minors'  to legally change genders without undergoing surgery or sterilization. Meanwhile Bolivia's newly approved gender identity law—passed by Congress in May—has been met with resistance, especially by the church.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that trans people will no longer be banned from openly serving in the military as their identifying gender. 

The Politics of Union: The Bermuda Senate rejected an amendment to the Human Rights Act passed by the House of Assembly that would have defined marriage as an act between a man and a woman. 

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted that a public vote on marriage equality—first proposed in 2015— will likely be delayed until 2017. The vote, or plebiscite, is expected to cost over $100million AUD and would not bind politicians to support the results. 

Let the Courts Decide: The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Hungary for detaining LGBT asylum seekers in facilities in which they are unsafe and that 'reproduce the plight that forced these persons to flee in the first place.'

The Constitutional Court of Romania approved an initiative led by the conservative group Coalition for Family to amend the constitution and define 'family' as a union between a man and a woman. 

A court has ruled that international dating company Spark Networks must change its four dating sites to accommodate same-sex couples.

Ten US states have joined a lawsuit against the Obama administration to stop regulations aimed at protecting trans students. Another 12 states have filed a brief in support of the protections. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin a student is suing his school system for ongoing stigmatization, including allegedly telling trans students to wear identifying green armbands. And in Minnesota a father is suing the school district for failing to protect his son from homophobic bullying that led to the 13-year old's suicide. 

And for the first time in Peru a 19-year old lesbian, with the help of the Center for Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (PROMSEX), has brought criminal charges against her parents for verbal and physical abuse she suffered due to her sexuality. 

In the Name of Religion: The Vatican announced that Cardinal Nicolás Rodríguez of the Santo Domingo Archdiocese resigned. The Cardinal was often caught in controversy for routinely using homophobic slurs against the openly gay US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, USA released new pastoral guidelines that prohibit unwed sexually active heterosexual couples and couples in same-sex relationships from receiving communion or from serving in the church.

Popular Iraqi Shiite clergyman Muqtada Sadr issued a religious decree prohibiting violence against gender-non-conforming individuals. The decree categorizes those who cross-dress or are gay as 'suffering psychologically' that should not be punished.

In Ireland the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council invited members of the LGBT community to share Iftar—the meal that breaks the day's fast during Ramadan. Council imam Dr Umar AL-Qadri said the invitation was important as 'an example of true Islamic ideals.' 

Polish organization Faith and Rainbow LGBT announced they will set up a 'LGBT Pilgrim's Haven' during the pope's visit to Krakow for World Youth Day—the week long festivities held every 3 years in a different country and attended by several million young people.

The Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted in favor of authorising same-sex marriage. 

Fear and Loathing:  In Brazil, several gay or trans people have been brutally murdered in unrelated events over the last month highlighting the ongoing violence perpetrated on LGBT Brazilians. According to Groupa Gay da Bahia's data, a gay or trans person is killed almost every day.

While filming her reality series, celebrity trans teen Jazz Jennings was told she 'might as well kill herself' during a radio call-in show. In Mexico officials found the burned body of trans beauty queen Paulett Gonzalez who went missing a month ago.

In a new article in East Asia Quarterly professor Sharyn Davies explored Indonesia's wave of 'panic' and intolerance over LGBT issues thus far in 2016.

Winds of Change: The Williams Institute has used empirical data to explore how international development and human rights advocates might address the needs of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities. 

Human Rights Watch released a new report on forced anal exams perpetrated on men and trans women to 'prove' homosexual conduct. Although experts, including the UN special rapporteur on torture, have called the exams 'medically worthless' amounting to 'torture' and the International Forensic Expert Group has described the exams as 'a form of sexual assault and rape,' the practice continues in at least 8 countries. 

Thailand's Department of Corrections announced a new pilot program to separate LGBT inmates from the general populace for 'their own safety.' At least 4,448 prisoners classified as LGBT will be moved to facilities at the Min Buri Prison of Bangkok.  

A new survey from Canada found that a majority of Canadians expect there to be a gay prime minister within the next ten years. Using US survey data, researchers found that the number of self-identifying transgender adults in the nation has doubled in the last 10 years.

From South Africa sex worker and trans activist Leigh Davids shared her experience participating in the International AIDS Conference. From Nepal intersex activist Esan Regmi spoke to UNAIDS about his experiences growing up and participating in the first national meeting on intersex issues.

Shane Ng, a student from Hong Kong, described how secrecy and fear over her sexuality led to suicide attempts, commitment to a mental institution, and the eventual emigration from China. And journalist Michael Luongo reflected on what 'growing up gay' means to men in Afghanistan.

Japanese nonprofits Iwate Rainbow Network and Kochi Help Desk have published a bilingual guidebook for gender and sexual minorities caught in natural disasters, pulling from the needs identified during recent earthquakes and tsunamis. 
On the March:  The Netherlands has attempted to improve the situation for vulnerable asylum seekers with trained staff and private wings for women and LGBT persons at some centers. Meanwhile Uruguay reportedly granted asylum to a gay Russian man—the first time the country has extended asylum based on a person's sexual orientation

For the first time in Canada, a sitting prime minister joined Toronto's annual Pride parade with PM Justin Trudeau marching alongside gay HIV positive Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash. While 'tens of thousands' marched in Toronto, organizers of the first pride event in Steinbach, Manitoba—a small religious town in southern Canada—were surprised when an estimated 3,000 people arrived, forcing police to clear extra roads for the march. 

In Beersheba, Israel, hundreds protested after the High Court of Justice cited 'safety concerns' and canceled the city's first Pride event. Meanwhile nearly 25,000 attended the Jerusalem Pride March a year after a man's stabbed six participants killing a 16-year old.

Pride festivities in Montpellier, France were cancelled and those in Nice postponed after the tragic attack on Nice's Bastille Day celebrations that killed 84 people. 

School Days:  A survey funded by a $2 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that a majority of school administrators feel their schools need more specific support programming for LGBTQ youth. 

The Catholic Church of Scotland has reportedly joined the Time For Inclusive Education campaign to add LGBT issues to education in Scottish schools.  And in the US, California became the first state to add LGBT issues and civil rights history to the public school curriculum

And Nepal's Joint Secretary at Ministry of Education Hari Lamsal called for gender and sexual minority issues to be incorporated into education curriculums at all levels. 

Business and Technology:  A new analysis of US economy estimated that the spending power of LGBT community is worth an estimated $917 billion (€834 billion). 

The largest drugstore chain in the US began distributing resource guides to their healthcare providers and pharmacists with information on LGBTQ terminology and identities, health disparities, and topics such as transitioning, HIV, and PrEP. 

To celebrate Durban Pride Week, consumer goods giant Unilever South Africa lit its headquarters up in rainbow colors and released a statement of support for the community. 

Sports and Culture: The International Olympic Committee ordered 350,000 male condoms, 100,000 female condoms, and 175,000 packets of lubricant to hand out at the Olympic village.

Indian Olympic athlete Dutee Chand spoke out about the humiliating 'gender verification' tests she has routinely been subjected to because of her superior performance in track and field events.

Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter Amanda Nunes became the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first openly gay champion. 

The US National Basketball Association announced it will move the 2016 All Star Game out of North Carolina due to the state's anti-LGBT House Bill 2. The NBA's decision came after NC lawmakers refused to make significant changes to the bill and could cost the state over $100 million in lost revenue. 

After nine years publishing exclusively in English, an online Jordanian LGBT magazine published its first edition in Arabic and founders received their first death threats.

In South Africa, the African Democratic Institute and Gay & Lesbian Memory in Action hosted a screening of documentary film Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality. 

And finally, if you find yourself in Berkshire, England this fall check out the exhibition The Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison at HM Prison Reading—the prison that held playwright Oscar Wilde from 1895 to 1897 for gross indecency after his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas was exposed. The two month event will feature art installations and readings by actors Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and others.
Charlize Theron
"The real reason we haven’t beaten the epidemic boils down to one simple fact: We value some lives more than others. 

We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor. And adults more than adolescents. I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference... it doesn't single out the vulnerable, the oppressed or the abused. We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed and the abused. We ignore them, we let them suffer and then we let them die."

~ actress Charlize Theron, addressing the 21st International AIDS Conference in South Africa 
Continue for excerpts from the articles
ban ki moon Michel Sidibé UNAIDS report
AIDS activist Martha Tholanah received the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award during the official opening of the 21st International AIDS conference 
21st International AIDS Conference Opens in Durban
The 21st International AIDS Conference opened on 18 July in Durban, South Africa. Under the theme “Access equity rights now,” the conference echoes UNAIDS’ call to leave no one behind and provide comprehensive HIV services to everyone in need.

AIDS 2016 brings together some 18 000 delegates from 183 countries to work to strengthen not only HIV treatment, prevention, care and support programmes, but also the commitment to evidence-informed HIV research, overcoming the marginalization of vulnerable populations, challenging discriminatory laws and championing a community-centred and rights-based response to HIV.  

The conference was officially opened on Monday evening by South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, United Nations Messenger of Peace and actress Charlize Theron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, AIDS 2016 Co-Chairs Olive Shisana and Chris Beyrer and Nkhensani Mavasa of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign. Read more via UNAIDS
#AIDS2016 opens with calls for reinvigorated force to fight HIV, and inclusion of still-neglected populations
The IAC 2016 opened with calls not only for reinvigorated force to battle HIV, particularly with many of those that used to back HIV-related efforts winding down their financial support; but also for the inclusion particularly of populations that are often left out of HIV-related conversations, even if they are among the most affected by HIV.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that to fight HIV and AIDS, “we have to help people access services and live with dignity.” Adding to this call was Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, Messenger of Peace for the United Nations and founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, who spoke at the official opening of the conference. (See her remarks here)

For Michel Sidibe of the UNAIDS, just as big a challenge is the dwindling source of funding in the fight against HIV – something he likened to the global response to malaria that funders thought was already under control so they stopped funding fights against it; but is now re-surfacing and thereby requiring even more money to be dealt with. Read more via Outrage
Elton John & PEPFAR $10 million pledge to support LGBT people in Africa
Elton John has pledged to spend his Aids Foundation’s money on supporting LGBT people in Africa who are stigmatised and penalised in their own countries.

The singer has joined Pepfar, the US president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, in a $10m LGBT fund that will issue grants and provide expertise to help those living under homophobic regimes.

John acknowledged that he could not persuade governments to change their values. “I know that certain governments in Africa will not respond to someone like me telling them you should do this, you should do that. I count for nothing as far as that goes.

“What I can do is ensure that people who are LGBT – if their clinics are closed down because they are LGBT – we can give them medicine. If they are arrested, we will get them legal aid,” he said on Wednesday at the international Aids conference in Durban, South Africa.  Read more via Guardian
Researchers calculated the economic cost of homophobia — and the numbers are staggering
Homophobia exacts a devastating emotional toll. But according to UNAIDS researcher Erik Lamontagne, discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual communities carries a substantial economic cost, too. 

A combination of factors, including discriminatory hiring practices, unequal pay and shorter life expectancies, mean LGB people may not be earning as much as they deserve — and it could be holding back the global economy to the tune of more than a hundred billion dollars a year. 

According to Lamontagne's findings, which haven't yet been published, homophobic laws and social norms could be costing up to $119.1 billion of GDP worldwide, according to Lamontagne.And that's just the beginning: Lamontagne's results only reflect homophobia against gay men and other men who have sex with men, or MSM. 

"These figures are underestimating the real cost of sexual orientation-related stigma," Lamontagne said in an email. "[The] figures would be higher if we could account for LBTI and effeminate men." Read more via Mic
UNAIDS launches Key Population Atlas 
The Key Populations Atlas brings together data from diverse sources into one visual tool. With the collaboration of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the Division of Global HIV and Tuberculosis of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNAIDS collected, collated and assessed selected indicators in a single database.

The purpose of the project is to provide more local level data for local level action for policy-makers, program directors, and community activists and advocates among others. The Atlas extends the data dissemination and displaying capacity of AIDSinfo to better match local person, place and time data with the exigencies of an effective response to the HIV epidemic. The indicators included extend beyond traditional Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting. Data on stigma and
discrimination, particularly in the health service sector, and the legal environment were extracted and mapped, for example, to better capture some of the structural challenges in mounting effective responses for key populations communities.

This project is on-going, with expectations to update the database quarterly, to best reflect what is being learned about the HIV epidemic and response among key population communities. Check out the Atlas via UNAIDS
LGBTI vote at the UN shows battle for human rights is far from won
The world has edged closer to placing the same value on the rights of LGBTI people as it does on human rights. Sadly, not all states, including many African countries, are on the same page.

The 47-member Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a landmark resolution on “Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. For the first time an independent monitor will be appointed with the mandate to identify the root causes of discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. But the resolution was only narrowly adopted, with 6 countries abstaining from the vote altogether. What happened? Read more via The Conversation
The call for applications for the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been posted on the OHCHR website. Read more here
The global response to HIV in men who have sex with men
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to have disproportionately high burdens of HIV infection in countries of low, middle, and high income in 2016.

Four years after publication of a Lancet Series on MSM and HIV, progress on reducing HIV incidence, expanding sustained access to treatment, and realising human rights gains for MSM remains markedly uneven and fraught with challenges. Incidence densities in MSM are unacceptably high in countries as diverse as China, Kenya, Thailand, the UK, and the USA, with substantial disparities observed in specific communities of MSM including young and minority populations.

Although some settings have achieved sufficient coverage of treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and human rights protections for sexual and gender minorities to change the trajectory of the HIV epidemic in MSM, these are exceptions. Read more via the Lancet
AIDS2016: A demand for PrEP access from the transgender community
For the first time ever, the program for the International AIDS Conference has included a pre-conference focused on transgender people called No More Lip service:  Trans Access, Equity and Rights, Now!  The program brought together global trans people and activists from Peru, Malaysia, Thailand, United States, India and many other countries in Africa and around the world.  

JoAnne Keatly, USA,  and Amitava Sarkar, India, served as co-chairs for the meeting, which included an entire day of focus on the needs, update research, and capacity building.  The speakers spoke of the new TRANSIT program—a health care model to address trans needs. At an early afternoon session, several speakers addressed the access and acceptability of PrEP in trans populations.  In general, speakers discussed the lack of data among trans people relate to PrEP use.  Read more via MSMGF
AIDS2016: PrEP around the world
The MSMGF AIDS 2016 Pre-Conference Action+ Access: Rights and Demands of Gay and Bisexual Men in the Global HIV Response in Durban, South Africa came at a very import time in the discussions around PrEP roll out among MSM in different communities and countries globally. Different presenters in different sessions expounded their discussion around PrEP focusing from clinical trials, demonstration and implementation projects to real everyday life users.

The commonality that cut across and came out very strongly where four important factors to consider as we go forward on PrEP. On top of the list is the issue of cost where funding is mainly from developmental partners and very little from domestic funding especially when it comes to the low and middle-income countries. Read more via MSMGF
UK: Gay and bi men resorting to desperate measures for HIV prevention
Luke*, 27, has taken PEP—the emergency treatment that can prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered a person's body—thrice in the last year. "The first time I was on mephedrone and GHB and I was having sex with this guy at a party. I realized he wasn't wearing a condom and when I asked him if he was negative, he said, 'I think so.'"

Luke went to London's leading sexual health clinic and was prescribed an emergency course of PEP. "They were ridiculously professional and referred me for drug counseling, which I attended." Since then, Luke has been twice prescribed PEP on the National Health Service by physicians.

Luke's experiences of needing emergency HIV medication are not unique. According to figures released on Tuesday by the Department of Health, more gay men are accessing PEP on the NHS than ever before. In 2011, 2,388 gay men in England were prescribed PEP. By 2015, this figure had risen to 7,980, an increase of 234%. The data paints a bleak outlook for the sexual health of queer men. Read more via Broadly
Australia: HIV rates in the indigenous community will soar, expert warns
James Ward, Australia’s top Indigenous infectious disease expert, has predicted an increase in rates of sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis and HIV within the NSW Aboriginal community following funding cuts to sexual health awareness programs run by the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AHMRC).

The AHMRC stopped running sexual health awareness programs across the state and fired 40 staff members after funding from the federal and state governments expired in June.

“Those jobs cuts come at the most vulnerable time for [the Indigenous] community. We’ve got evidence of rates of sexually transmitted infections increasing, in particular in NSW. We’ve also got our highest ever rates of HIV notifications occurring in our community and the potential for that to increase is at an all-time high,” Ward told BuzzFeed News. Read more via Buzzfeed
Global backlash against LGBT rights impairs HIV/AIDS advances
The past year has brought an outpouring of victories in the fight for global LGBTIQ rights that just a couple of years ago seemed all but impossible -- landmark legislation and court decisions in countries from the United States to Columbia, the UN Security Council's very first discussion of LGBTIQ rights, and more.

But as with so many journeys towards justice, often every two steps forward in the fight are followed by a devastating one back. In this case, a growing list of countries, from Nigeria to Indonesia, have responded to their LGBTIQ communities' standing up to demand their rights by passing repressive legislation that increases the discrimination and legal repercussions they face.

And in addition to sanctioning discrimination -- and, implicitly, violence -- against those perceived to be queer, these laws have also proven deadly by deterring HIV testing and outreach and setting back the 35-year-long fight to end AIDS, just as leaders around the world are proclaiming that the end may finally be in sight.  Read more via The Body
Russia: Despite epidemic, a crackdown on HIV activists 
Despite a rising HIV epidemic in Russia, officials appear to be clamping down on the few organisations trying to fight the spread of the virus.  In recent weeks, authorities added two leading HIV-prevention groups to a "foreign agents" blacklist, as a broader crackdown on independent civil society hits the battle against HIV. 

Officials have already targeted dozens of other NGOs in fields from human rights to environmental protection.  Yet last month, the label was slapped on Esvero, an umbrella group for organisations fighting the spread of HIV in Russia, and the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, which runs Moscow's only programme offering clean needles and advice to drug addicts.

AIDS activists in Russia have long fought an uphill battle. Under President Vladimir Putin, the country has taken an increasingly conservative turn that -- along with the influence of the powerful Orthodox Church -- has seen official policy promote abstinence rather than condom use and focused exclusively on treatment instead of prevention. Read more via Economic Times
South Africa: LGBTI community much more likely to suffer from depression
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group reports that the LGBTI community is three to four times more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. While these conditions affect around 10% of the general South African population, the rate amongst LGBTI people is between 31% and 45%.

According to Right to Care, a non-profit organisation that provides LGBTI sensitisation health care training, the LGBTI community is also more prone to suffer from substance abuse disorders as a form of relief from tremendous stress.

The latest Gauteng City-Region Observatory Quality of Life Survey found that 14% of the province’s citizens say it is acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people. It also found that only 56% agreed that gay and lesbian people deserve equal rights with all South Africans. Disturbingly, this is a major fall from 2013 when 71% agreed with the statement. Read more via MambaOnline
US: LGBT adults experience higher rates of psychological distress and impaired physical health
According to a report published today, LGBT adults are also more likely to smoke and drink heavily compared to heterosexuals. Published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal by researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the National Health Interview Survey collated responses from 68,000 US adults.

LGBT adults report substantially higher rates of severe psychological distress, heavy drinking, heavy smoking and impaired physical health than heterosexuals, according to the study. The results support earlier findings that members of the LGBT community are disproportionately affected by mental health problems, which may be related to stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

Authors of the study concluded that its results “should serve as a call to health care professionals and public health practitioners to pay particular attention to this small, diverse and vulnerable population”. Read more via Pink News
US: CDC finds gay and bisexual males more likely to use drugs
Gay and bi teenage boys are taking just as many risks as their heterosexual counterparts, but their risk of contracting HIV is a lot higher, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a news release, the CDC revealed that even though American, male high school students have sex and use condoms at the same rates regardless of orientation, gay and bisexual teens are more at risk of getting HIV — mostly because of their partners, but also possibly because of drug use.

The epidemic is spiking among young people. For example, between 2005 and 2014, HIV diagnoses of 13- to 24-year-old black and Latino men who have sex with men increased 87%. But, looking into this further, the CDC found that roughly the same percentage of gay and bisexual and heterosexual teen boys had ever had sex (51% vs 41%), were sexually active (35% vs 30%), had sex with at least four partners (15 versus 11) and used condoms (48 versus 58).

The motives aren't cut-and-dried. "Sexual risk behaviors and substance use among gay and bisexual youth may be influenced by a number of complex and interrelated factors — not only education and peer norms, but also social factors like stigma, discrimination and lack of family or social support," researcher Laura Kann said. Read more via International Business Times
Australia: AIDS epidemic no longer a public health issue
The nation's top scientists have declared "the end of AIDS" as a public health issue, as Australia joins the ranks of a select few countries which have successfully beaten the epidemic.

'The number of Australians being diagnosed with AIDS each year is now so small, researchers from the Kirby and Peter Doherty institutes and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations have announced the age of the fatal syndrome over.

AIDS cases in Australia have plummeted since the advent of anti-retroviral medication in the mid-1990s, which stops HIV from progressing to AIDS - where the immune system is so badly damaged it cannot fight off infection. At its peak in the early 1990s, about 1,000 Australians died from AIDS each year. Read more via ABC
Australia: ‘The end of AIDS’? Don’t be misled
The media reports that Australian scientists have declared an “end to AIDS,” saying that numbers are now so low that AIDS related deaths don’t constitute a public health emergency. That’s great, but it’s not the whole story. 

Unfortunately, much of the press stories on this news have used titles with variations of “The End of AIDS.” Technically, that pithy quote from Australian scientists may be accurate, but at the same time, it could mislead the public into thinking the threat of HIV is also now over. That simply isn’t true.

It’s estimated that there are just over 1,000 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Australia every year, with a rising proportion of young people being diagnosed. And there is a fear that a certain “HIV is no big deal” mentality has set in among youth who were not alive to see either the AIDS crisis or its immediate aftermath. Read more via Care2
Uganda: Extending HIV/AIDS  services to Uganda’s only gay friendly bar
Spectrum Uganda together with Ice breakers Uganda, last week took health services to the people. The two organisations in conjunction with Alive Medical Service held a session at one of the very few gay friendly bars in Kampala where they extended health, counseling and testing services to LGBTI people.

For many MSM, Uganda’s HIV epidemic brings with it significant social burdens. A pervading social stigma and high levels of homophobic violence caused by enduring conservative attitudes, result in MSM feeling less inclined to access HIV services. Only 44% of MSM living with HIV have ever been tested for the virus and know their results according to some surveys

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, passed by parliament on 20th December 2013 but later annulled on 1st August 2014 on procedural grounds, is thought to have resulted in an increased harassment and prosecution based on sexual orientation and gender identities. Uganda’s official adoption of new restrictive legislation has also triggered negative discussions from the general population via social media, in which violence and anti-gay discrimination were advocated. HIV outreach workers and services providers working with MSM in Uganda have also reported heightened challenges in reaching this population.

It is upon such background that many health oriented organizations have put special emphasis on the fight against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases within the LGBTI community. Read more via Kucku Times
China: Police practices undermining HIV response
In China, law enforcement practices are hindering sex workers’ ability to access and carry condoms and negatively impacting HIV prevention efforts, according to a new Asia Catalyst report released today.

Based on a year-long community research project conducted among 517 male, female, and transgender sex workers in three major Chinese cities, the report, The Condom Quandary: A Survey of the Impact of Law Enforcement Practices on Effective HIV Prevention among Male, Female, and Transgender Sex Workers in China, describes how laws and law enforcement practices are affecting sex workers’ ability to access and carry condoms, impacting on their human rights, and undermining China’s HIV prevention efforts. Read more via Asia Catalyst
US: How lesbian, bi women are getting fitter
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released a report on the health of LGBT Americans which noted that lesbian and bisexual women “may be at greater risk of obesity” than their heterosexual counterparts.

In response, the Office on Women’s Health, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched its Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women (HWLB) program the following year.

Now, a team of researchers has tested the HWLB program in over 250 participants ages 40 and older across 10 cities. Not only is their study in Women’s Health Issues the first of its kind, a full 95 percent of the women in these pilot programs achieved at least one of the program’s goals. Read more via Daily Beast
Uruguay hosts global LGBTI human rights conference
Government officials from more than 40 countries and civil society activists representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people have established an international coalition for equal rights to promote and protect rights for the LGBTI community.

The decision was made during the 4th Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference, which is taking place in Montevideo, Uruguay, under the theme of “Non-violence, non-discrimination and social inclusion.” Participants at the conference explored how to ensure that the rights of LGBTI people are included in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including forging stronger partnerships between governments, multilateral organizations and civil society.

Specific areas discussed included international and regional diplomacy, the shrinking space for civil society, the coordination of donor funding and the inclusion of LGBTI issues in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Read more via UNAIDS
Iran pushes ‘Islamic human rights’ excluding LGBT people
The Iranian government plans to host an international human rights conference in the city of Qom in August to discuss Islamic Human Rights principles, which will exclude LGBT rights and other issues  “that are based on Western cultural standards and lifestyle,” as well as issues that ” are not universally accepted.”

The announcement about the upcoming conference was made [June 29] by Mr. Kazem Gharibabadi, the International Deputy for the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, affiliated with the Iranian Judiciary. During his comments, Mr. Gharibabadi’s was specifically critical of the inclusion of LGBT rights in various human rights treaties. Read more via 76Crimes
US: GOP platform contemplates anti-porn provision, embrace of ‘conversion therapy’
As GOP delegates gather in Cleveland to formulate the party’s principles document, social conservative priorities have dominated the discussion, with several provisions opposition same-sex marriage and endorsing controversial conversion therapy passing preliminary votes Monday. The platform committee approved several of the measures in a sometimes-heated discussion between social conservatives and more moderate Republicans that represent a more conservative shift from the draft platform authored by Republican National Committee staff and outside advisors. 

An amendment offered by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins in the subcommittee on healthcare, education, and crime offered support for the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” for children who identify as LGBT.

The subcommittee strengthened the platform’s language in opposition to same-sex marriage. The initial draft circulated late Sunday to committee members stated: “Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman and actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society. For that reason, as explained elsewhere In this platform, we do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the States.” Read more via Time
US: Congress’ response to Orlando shooting is to try to legalize discrimination
One month ago on Tuesday, a gunman shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. House Republicans plan to mark this milestone with a hearing on a bill that would enable widespread discrimination against LGBT people. The legislation, ironically named the “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA) rests on the idea that discrimination should be excused when it is justified by religion.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plans to consider FADA. The anti-LGBT bill has 171 different co-sponsors, nearly all of them Republicans.
By its own explicit terms, FADA grants special rights to individuals with a “religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” In that sense, it closely resembles a Mississippi law that a federal judge halted earlier this month, in part because it extends special treatment to individuals with anti-LGBT religious beliefs. Read more via Think Progress
Japan election manifestos free LGBT rights from political closet
When openly gay independent candidate Wataru Ishizaka campaigned for a 2007 Tokyo local election, people snickered at his speeches, but now even Japan's conservative ruling party mentions gay rights in its platform for this year's upper house election.

Though the paragraph is deep in the manifesto of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and refers only to promoting understanding of sexual diversity, even this was unthinkable a decade ago.

By Asian standards, Japanese laws are relatively liberal - homosexual sex has been legal since 1880 - but social attitudes keep the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community largely invisible. LGBT rights are not covered in Japan's Equal Opportunity Act and there are no anti-discrimination laws. But things are changing. Read more via Reuters
Tanzania: In support of Dar RC’s ban on obscene behaviour
Dar Es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda has made a point, his bid to fight homosexuality must be cheered. The truth is, for the first time, a government leader has come out in the open to declare war against the menace that silently keeps on devastating the dignity of the youth.

The RC’s intervention is timely. The country shouldn’t wait until it is too late to address the problem, kind of a mistake made by Western ‘democratic’ countries.

This western philosophical standpoint serves political rather than social ends, egoistic rather than collective ends and hypocritical rather than reality ends that were meant by whoever created the earth. To get into power and stay there in the government, church, private corporations, local government and associations, one must support and glorify issues of interest to what they fashionably call Lesbianism, Gayism, Bisexualism and Transgender (LGBT).

Fortunately, Africa is still pretty much safer. Banking on lessons from the Western democracies, African leaders must make sure they don’t let their countries get to the point of no return by upholding the so called gay rights movements in their territories. Read more via Daily News
Tanzania bans lube in crackdown on gays
The Tanzanian government has banned imports and sales of sexual lubricants in its latest move targeting the gay community, officials say. Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu justified the move on the grounds that the product encourages homosexuality, which is banned in the east African nation.

"It is true that the government has banned the importation and use of the jelly to curb the spread of HIV," the minister told local media: "I have instructed stakeholders working with gay people to remove the products from the market."

Groups working with the gay community were handing out the lube for free, the minister said: "The ministry has agreed to work with stakeholders to give the ministry the money they were using to buy and import the lubricants so we could use it to buy beds for the maternity wards." Read more via News24
Zimbabweans indifferent to prison homosexuality
Speaking at the launch of the Parliamentary caucus on tuberculosis, Mudenda said homosexuality should be mentioned more often, as he called for an overhaul of the prison system, which is currently not in line with constitutional provisions: “We should instead be thinking along the lines of an open prison system like the one at Connemara, which allows for development of skills,” he said.

Mudenda said it was prudent to change prisoners’ mindsets. “That (overcrowding) is not proper in terms of the Constitution. The prison system must change,” he said. Mudenda pleaded with development partners to provide funding to fight TB, which continues to be a huge burden for Zimbabwe’s health sector.

Mudenda said the budget should be stout enough to drive the campaign and the Health ministry would be mandated to evaluate progress. He said diseases like TB and HIV and Aids had no political boundaries and, therefore, should be prioritised by everyone regardless of political affiliation. Read more via Newsday
France: Transgender people win major victory
Transgender people won a major victory, with France about to join a growing number of countries that allow people to legally change their gender without surgery. This means no more psychiatrist certificates, no more proofs of sex reassignment surgery: above all, an end to the demand for sterilization.

The National Assembly voted in favor in the second reading yesterday, but it still needs to go to the Senate and to be approved. After the National Assembly voted to adopt the amendment, the changes will allow anyone to change their gender status if they are able to demonstrate ‘by an adequate combination of facts that their legal gender status does not match their lived gender.’
As examples of the evidence now required, the amendment suggests simply that the individual can show that they are living according to their claimed gender identity socially, at work and within their family environment. Read more via Gay Star News
Bolivia: A Surprising Move on LGBT Rights From a "Macho" South American President
Bolivia has a new gender identity law that might put it in Latin America’s vanguard on LGBT rights—but the story behind the measure reveals how far the Andean nation still has to go before ending homophobia. That’s according to Carlos Parra, aka Paris Galán, the country’s best known drag queen and a prominent gay rights campaigner.

Signed into law in May, the measure allows people to change their gender on official identity documents. It means that Bolivia joins Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia as the only four nations in the deeply Catholic region to recognize the needs of transsexual and transgender citizens in this way. Unveiling the new law, Vice President Alvaro García Linera said it would put an end to the “social hypocrisy” in which many Bolivians had previously refused to acknowledge the existence of the LGBT community.

Yet, says Galán, the law was only finally pushed through congress, dominated by President Evo Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, to quell anger from activists at a remark he made months earlier.  Read more via Pulitzer Centre
US: Lifting the ban on openly transgender troops was long overdue
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said last summer that the Pentagon would lift its ban on transgender people serving openly in the military pending a six-month review process. The process took one year. The repeal of the ban is even longer overdue.

For years, transgender troops have defended the country with dedication and dignity — but the military has not always shown them the same care. Estimates of the number of transgender service members range from as few as 2,500 troops on active duty and 1,500 in the reserves to 12,800 altogether. Many of these troops, afraid to reveal their gender identities for fear of being fired, have fought on the front lines but lived in the shadows. Some refrain from reporting health issues or sexual assaults while they serve to avoid discovery. The repeal will give all troops the equal treatment they deserve. Read more via Washington Post
Bermuda: Human Rights Act amendment rejected
The Senate rejected amendments to the Human Rights Act aimed at solidifying marriage as being between a man and a woman. Those who voted against the Bill labelled it regressive and an infringement on Bermuda’s human rights laws.

The Bill, tabled by Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, passed in the House of Assembly but has been strongly criticised by the Human Rights Commission. It states that the Human Rights Act cannot override the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which provides that marriages are void unless they are between a man and a woman.

Mr Furbert remained upbeat last night, immediately pledging to bring his legislation back to the House — and raising the possibility of talks over civil unions. Ms Woolridge said she cringes when she reflects on experiences of black men and women and that, as a black woman, she cringes at the thought of anyone wanting to infringe on human rights. Read more via Royal Gazette
Australia: Marriage equality plebiscite likely to delayed
LGBTI advocates are furious at the prospect that a public vote on marriage equality might not happen until next year. During this year’s election campaign, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continually promised if the Coalition stayed in power, the national plebiscite on same-sex marriage would happen before year’s end.

However, last night on ABC’s 7.30, Turnbull revealed the plebiscite might not happen until early in 2017. “We would like the plebiscite to be held as soon as practicable, but again, that will depend on when the legislation is passed,” he said on the program.

“My commitment to have it dealt with as soon as practicable is there, but we … have to obtain the support of the Senate. We don’t even know who the senators will be at this stage.” NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-covenor Chris Pycroft said further delays on legislating marriage equality are unnecessary.  Read more via Star Observer
Hungary: European court strikes against arbitrary detention of LGBT asylum seekers
In judgment of OM v Hungary, the Court, unanimously ruled that the applicant’s detention was arbitrary and unjustified, in violation of Article 5 (Right to liberty and security) of the European Convention. In particular, the Court found that Hungarian authorities failed to make an individualised assessment and to take into account applicant’s vulnerability in the detention facility based on his sexual orientation.   

“It is comforting that the Court again stands with the rights of asylum seekers – no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Hungary needs to act on the judgment, and immediately ensure the respect of fundamental rights in all asylum procedures” said ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director Evelyne Paradis. “We have been aware of the deteriorating situation for LGBTI people in Hungary over the past few years. The harsh methods we have seen the Hungarian authorities use to handle the on-going refugee situation, is another proof of a declining respect for fundamental rights with the system.” Read more via ILGA
Romania: A major step back in gay rights 
Romania’s Constitutional Court has taken a huge step back in gay rights after the Orthodox Church was successful in its homophobic campaign. While it currently has protection laws in place for LGBTI people, that could all change after the Constitutional Court has given way to legislation that could lead to same-sex marriage and civil unions expressly banned in the south-eastern European country.

The court approved a citizen’s initiative that aims to amend the constitutional definition of family to make it clear a union is only between a man and a woman. The constitutional amendment will now be discussed by Parliament.

The decision was made after the Coalition for Family, a group of religion NGO groups headed by the powerful Orthodox Church, needed 500,000 signatures to submit to the Romanian government. They raised over 3 million. Read more via Gay Star News
ChristianMingle will make big, pro-gay change after lawsuit
The “largest and fastest growing online community” for Christian singles will now allow gay and lesbian users to search for same-sex matches following a legal battle. In 2013, two gay men filed class actions claims against ChristianMingle’s parent company, Spark Networks. The men argued that Spark was breaking California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which requires businesses to provide “full and equal accommodations” to all patrons regardless of sexual orientation, in not permitting gay and lesbian people to use its online dating services. 

Per a settlement, Spark agreed to allow users to just identify as a “man” or a “woman” on its homepages. The company is also required to introduce new features that will make it easier for gay and lesbian users to search for others on the site.  The settlement’s terms will also apply to three of Spark’s other sites, CatholicMingle, AdventistSinglesConnection and BlackSingles, but not to its popular Jewish-oriented site, JDate, which was not a part of the lawsuit. Read more via Huffington Post
US: Nebraska leads 10 states in lawsuit against President’s pro-trans policies
Nebraska, joined by nine other states, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt implementation and enforcement of the Obama administration’s policies providing transgender protections under current law.

The new lawsuit echoes a lawsuit filed in May by several other states, led by Texas.
The Nebraska-led lawsuit contains many of the same claims raised in the Texas-led lawsuit, often repeating the same exact language as appeared in the Texas complaint. The Nebraska-led lawsuit appears to focus on protections relating to transgender students — asserting that students have the right under federal law to use a restroom in accordance with their gender identity.  Read more via Buzzfeed

US: 12 states will support Obama’s transgender policies in court, bucking Texas and others
 brief to be filed Wednesday offers a counterpoint to two groups of states that have sued the Obama administration in an effort to block federal protections for transgender workers and students. Read more via Buzzfeed
US: Parent of middle-schooler who died by suicide is suing Duluth district
Todd Seehus’ 13-year-old son died by suicide in February 2015 after kids called him “freak” and shoved him into lockers at Lincoln Park Middle School in Duluth, a federal lawsuit alleges. Now, Seehus is suing the Duluth School District for failing to curb the bullying that he says prompted his son’s death.

The suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court says the district, the school board, and former and current administrators at Lincoln Park Middle School didn’t address the bullying of his son, Tristan Seehus. The district’s lack of response amounted to discrimination against Tristan because of his perceived sexual orientation or gender expression, according to the suit.

“Tristan’s suicide was a foreseeable result of Defendants’ failure to provide him a safe educational environment,” the lawsuit said. Read more via Star Tribune
US: Transgender student accuses school of 'stigmatizing' treatment
A Wisconsin transgender student who fought his school for the right to run for prom king is suing the school district for the right to be treated like a boy.

Students at Tremper High School in Kenosha rallied around 16-year-old Ashton "Ash" Whitaker in April when the administration denied his request to run for prom king. They staged after-school protests and signed his petition demanding the right to run for prom king.

The administration eventually reversed course and let him run. But a lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 Board of Education and its superintendent of discrimination in several "stigmatizing" acts through the end of the school year and continuing into summer when he went to band camp, including allegedly telling him he will have to wear an identifying green arm band. Read more via CNN
Peru: Young lesbian files criminal complaint against her parents
19 year old lesbian Peruvian Antonella lives in a hostile environment. At her young age she had to bring criminal charges against her mother for discrimination and family violence. She is the first person performing this type of complaint in Peru.

Antonella left home because of the constant physical abuse she received from her mother and stepfather. In the report issued by Fourth Estate, Antonella said she was kicked, beaten and called "butch". Her stepfather had tried to suffocate her with a pillow after learning she was a lesbian.

"They told me I'm the devil himself, " revealed the young woman, who once had to be rescued by her aunt. Her mother, Nelly Roca is evangelical and integrates the so - called  World Missionary Movement in Peru. "I know that the Lord will transform" her mother said. Read more via Sin Equetas
Indonesia’s anti-LGBT panic
Compared with its Asian near neighbours, Indonesia has long been tolerant of same-sex sexuality and transgenderism. Unlike Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia never criminalised homosexuality and has been accommodating of transgender people.

But such ostensible acceptance should not obscure the everyday prejudice and harassment that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face in Indonesia. While there have always been concomitant tolerance and intolerance, events of early 2016 exhibited an unprecedented level of public animosity toward Indonesia’s LGBT community. Read more via East Asia Forum
Brazil is confronting an epidemic of anti-gay violence
The assailant struck as Gabriel Figueira Lima, 21, stood on a street two weeks ago in a city in the Amazon, plunging a knife into his neck and speeding off on the back of a motorcycle, leaving him to die.

A few days earlier, in the coastal state of Bahia, two beloved teachers,Edivaldo Silva de Oliveira and Jeovan Bandeira, were killed as well, their charred remains found in the trunk of a burning car. Late last month, it was Wellington Júlio de Castro Mendonça, a shy, 24-year-old retail clerk, who was bludgeoned and stoned to death near a highway in a city northwest of Rio.

In a nation seemingly inured to crime, the brutal killings stood out: The victims were not robbed, the police have yet to identify any suspects, and all of the dead were either gay or transgender. Read more via New York Times
Transgender beauty queen's burned body found dumped in Mexico
Authorities have found the burned body of a transgender beauty queen who was reported missing in Mexico a month ago. Investigators are now looking into whether Paulett Gonzalez, who was born Luis Jean Gonzalez Virgen, was killed in a hate crime. 

The 24-year-old was crowned the winner of the Gay Beauty Queen pageant in the western Mexican state of Nayarit last year. Read more via DailyMail
15-year-old trans girl Jazz Jennings told to ‘kill herself’ in radio phone-in gone wrong
A popular 15-year-old transgender activist was told she “might as well kill yourself” during a radio phone-in that went awry. Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen and the star of reality series I Am Jazz, had been taking part in a radio phone-in that was filmed for the TLC series.

In the clip, which aired this week, the call-in is going well until ‘Alex’ phoned up.
He said: “I’m just trying to wrap my head around this… how do you even approach dating?”

“Honestly you may as well kill yourself back where I’m from. Read more via Pink News
Dominican Republic: Pope Francis accepts anti-LGBT Dominican cardinal's resignation
The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo. 

López has repeatedly used homophobic slurs to describe gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster. López told reporters during a 2015 press conference that Brewster should “go back to his embassy” and “stick to housework, since he is a man’s wife.” The cardinal in 2013 referred to Brewster — who is married to Bob Satawake — as a “faggot” after President Obama nominated him to become the next American ambassador to the predominantly Catholic country.

Neither the Vatican nor the Dominican government has publicly rebuked López over his comments. Read more via Washington Blade
Iraq: Powerful clergyman decries violence against gender-non-conformist individuals
In a groundbreaking religious decree, the controversial Iraqi Shiite clergyman Muqtada Sadr banned the use of violence against gender-non-conformist individuals, arguing that resorting to violence will result in [those individuals'] further alienation from religion.

The historical ruling, dated June 29, 2016, is significant from both religious and political perspectives. Mr. Sadr is a populist clergy man with great following in Iraq, and has been considered a political and military powerhouse in the post-Saddam Iraq. 

Mr. Sadr's fatwa was not an acceptance of same-sex practice or cross dressing. Rather, the new ruling classifies homosexuals and cross-dressers as individuals "suffering psychologically" and committing sinful acts, but society should respect their right to life, hoping that they will eventually see the light.  The original text in Arabic can be found on his official website
US: Archdiocese of Philadelphia—No Communion for unwed, gay and some divorced couples 
Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as cohabitating unmarried couples, must "refrain from sexual intimacy" to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has asserted in a new set of pastoral guidelines.

Acknowledging that it is a "hard teaching," Chaput goes on to say that Catholics in same-sex partnerships, those remarried without a church annulment, and cohabitating persons may not serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors, or dispense Communion.

Michael Rocks, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Dignity, a group for homosexual Catholics who believe it is permissible to be sexually active, said he was not aware of Chaput's guidelines but that "they will not affect us, because we have a non-relationship with the archdiocese."

"But I wonder how they tell if straight people are following the sexual rules of the church," Rocks said. "How do they tell if the president of the parish council isn't into child pornography or having a sexual relationship?" Read more via Philly.com
Ireland: ‘True Islamic ideals’: Muslim group break Ramadan fast with LGBT community
A Muslim group aimed at fostering peace and integration in Ireland has joined with members of the country’s LGBT community to break bread during Ramadan.
In an effort to display “true Islamic ideals,” the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council invited a whole host of people from outside the faith to share in the spirit of the holy holiday.

“As more than one billion Muslims worldwide celebrate Ramadan by fasting and appreciating the blessings given to us it is equally important for the Irish Muslim community to reach out to our neighbors as an example of true Islamic ideals,” said Shaykh Dr. Umar Al-Qadri, imam and chairman of the council.

Dr. Al-Qadri has been an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community in Ireland, likening discrimination against gay and transgender people to that experienced by Muslims. Read more via RT
Poland: LGBT organisation to set up safe space for gay Christians at event
Gay and transgender Christians will set up a ministry during World Youth Day, when Pope Francis is expected to meet hundreds of thousands of young Catholics in southern Poland later this month.

Leaders of the Warsaw-based Faith And Rainbow LGBT organisation say they want to minister to the thousands of gay, lesbian and transgender people attending the event by setting up a "LGBT Pilgrim's Haven".

"We want to create a space in which they will feel safe and where they will find answers to issues facing them," organiser Misza Czerniak said. Read more via FirstPost
Canada: Anglican church backs same-sex marriage, a day after rejecting it
A day after the Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted not to authorise same-sex marriage, questions emerged, leading to a reversal of the result. More than 200 delegates attending the six-day general synod 2016 narrowly rejected the resolution on Monday night after hearing from more than 60 speakers, most of them in favour of gay marriage.

However, on Tuesday – the last day of the triennial conference – some members stood up to say their ballot had not been recorded during voting late on Monday, when the resolution failed to pass by a single vote.

Delegates requested a detailed hard copy of the electronic voting records, which led to a recount. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the church then declared the resolution in favour of same-sex marriage passed, a resolution that aligns with secular Canada, which legalised same-sex marriage in 2005. Read more via Guardian
Abusive “Tests” for Homosexual Conduct Violate Rights 
Forced anal examinations on men and transgender women accused of consensual same-sex conduct have been reported in at least eight countries in the last five years, Human Rights Watch said in a report. These examinations lack evidentiary value and are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that may in some cases amount to torture.

The 82-page report, “Dignity Debased: Forced Anal Examinations in Homosexuality Prosecutions,” is based on interviews with 32 men and transgender women who underwent forced anal examinations in Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Zambia. The examinations, which have the purported objective of finding “proof” of homosexual conduct, often involve doctors or other medical personnel forcibly inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into the anus of the accused. Victims of forced anal testing told Human Rights Watch that they found the exams painful and degrading; some experienced them as a form of sexual violence. Read more via HRW
Development agenda for sexual and gender minorities
The Williams Institute releases book-length report seeks to set out a framework for identifying development priorities for sexual and gender minorities. 

Issues of sexual orientation and gender identity have advanced much more rapidly in the human rights arena than in the human development arena.  This paper compares the two frameworks, sets out a pathway to formulate development priorities for sexual and gender minorities, and reviews the role of sexual and gender minorities in relation to economic growth.  Relying heavily on empirical research of sexual and gender minorities, the paper reviews the unique development needs of sexual and gender minorities, and identifies legal and cultural barriers to full human development.  

Additionally, various methods of defining “sexual and gender minority” are provided for the purposes of choosing target populations for development programs. Read the report via the Williams Institute 
Thailand to trial third-gender prison 
Prison authorities in Thailand are to pilot a separate jail to house lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) prisoners, saying it is for their own safety. Min Buri Prison in Bangkok will be used to house LGBT prisoners under the new pilot scheme.

Kobkiat Kasiwiwat, the deputy permanent secretary for justice, said dedicated prisons for LGBT inmates would protect them from abuses by other prisoners.

Transgender females in Thailand are not officially recognized as women so are automatically processed to all-male prison facilities, where they fear they will be subject to abuse. While Thailand has long been lauded for its liberal and accepting attitudes towards the LGBT community, gay people – especially transgenders – remain subject to abuse both inside and outside the prison system. Read more via Asian Correspondent 
Canadians say gay Prime Minister to come
A majority of Canadians believe it's likely a gay prime minister will be elected within the next decade, a new poll suggests.

Abacus Data recently asked respondents to weigh in on the probability of a number of possible scenarios in the next 10 or 20 years, including several related to Canadian politics.

Gay politicians have made significant in-roads in recent years in Canada. Ontario's Kathleen Wynne became the first openly gay premier in Canada's history when she assumed the office in 2013 and won a provincial election the next year in which her sexuality was largely a non-issue. Read more via Huffington Post

US: Estimate of Americans identifying as transgender doubled
On a day when the Pentagon announced it is lifting its ban on transgender men and women openly serving in the U.S. military, a research institute in California announced findings that the number of men and women identifying as transgender has doubled over the last 10 years.

Jody Herman, a public policy scholar at the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that the results are from people self-reporting on U.S. government surveys. She said while the study did not examine the factors behind the rise in self-identification, growing social acceptance of transgender people might have influenced the rise in numbers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger people — those between the ages of 18 and 24 — were more likely than older people to identify as transgender. They were also more likely to be of racial or ethnic minorities, and to have lower incomes. Read more via Voice of America
South Africa: What It's Like to Be a Transwoman Fighting for Sex Workers' Rights At #AIDS2016
Over 15,000 delegates from all over the world are at the International AIDS Conference, each one different in their own right. Advocate for health and human rights of sex workers, Leigh Davids, told the Daily Vox about her identity and her experience at the conference.

We were told that everyone working at the International AIDS Conference was sensitised about issues of gender and sexuality - which is not the truth. I had to spend a decent amount of time with security explaining that because as a transwoman, my preferred name is Leigh Davids while my ID document identifies me as Waleed Davids. I had to make them understand and accept my preference.

This whole experience made me feel like, why lead me on? This is what you say, but that is not what it really is. I know my ID says Waleed Davids, but my preference is Leigh Davids and that is because I am not a man. Read more via AllAfrica
Nepal: Growing up as an intersex person
In the past month many countries have held marches in support of LGBTI people. While recently, the spotlight has been on transgender people, little is still known about intersex people.

Earlier this year the community organization, the Blue Diamond Society organized Nepal’s first ever national level meeting on the issues and challenges faced by Intersex people. Esan Regmi, an intersex man was lead facilitator. UNAIDS spoke to Esan, born – Parbati Kumari Regmi about his personal journey.

ESAN: When I went to school or any public space – people used to make fun of me. They would look at my girl’s name and say “Yesterday she looked like a girl and today she looks like a boy”. My friends didn’t want me around them. Even my teachers looked down on me. I was discriminated against most in school because in Nepal girls and boys are separated and I didn’t know where I fit in. Read more via UNAIDS
Afghanistan: What It’s Like Growing Up Gay in Afghanistan
Whether Omar Mateen was gay or had any kind of sexual feelings for other men, same-sex attraction in Afghanistan, where his family was from, is shrouded in its own mystery.

...The young man who sat close to me, a translator I had hired in Kabul, was curious about the ways of the West, asking me if I had a girlfriend.  My answers baffled him, as I told him not all men have to be with a woman; they can find companionship in other ways. For the twelve hours on the rough and tumble, largely unpaved road between the Afghan capital and Bamiyan, I had spoken in the same riddles whenever he asked about my relationships, his face twisted with confusion as he tried to comprehend me.

Only in the morning, as we were leaving the hotel, did he put it all together. And it was in this way that he understood the feelings he had also been unable to grasp about himself, to define the way he too felt about other men.  Certainly he knew men could be attracted to other men, something often expressed sexually by Afghan males beginning in puberty. Yet for him, the sense of who and what he was ran deeper beyond mere sexual attraction. Read more via the Daily Beast
Japan: Bilingual guidebook to help LGBT community in natural disasters
A bilingual guideline designed for sexual minorities during times of natural disasters has been published in a bid to raise public awareness about problems they may face at emergency shelters.

Titled “Rainbow Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Guide,” the leaflet, written in Japanese and English, lists struggles sexual minorities may encounter, as well as possible measures to be taken by individuals and municipalities offering help at shelters.

The book was jointly published by Kochi Help Desk, a nonprofit organization based in Konan, Kochi Prefecture, and Iwate Rainbow Network, a group based in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. Read more via Japan Times
Hong Kong: One Girl's Story Coming Out Still Painful
Shane Ng walked through the streets of Hong Kong crying. Walking from one part of the city to another, Ng – then 14 – didn’t know where to go. It was May of 2011. She had just separated with the girl she was dating. Later that night, Ng’s mother scolded her for coming home late and not explaining why she was crying. Ng rushed to her room, slammed and locked the door and within seconds, slit her left wrist.

“I don’t talk about [being lesbian] and can’t show [my homosexuality],” she says in Mandarin. 

While there are are no official statistics, there are about 40 million homosexual males and females like Ng in China, according to a Zhang Beichuan (張北川), a professor at Qingdao University Medical School who noted this statistic in 2012. Many LGBT individuals hide their true sexual orientation in fear of not being accepted; many enter into “cooperative marriages” or fake marriages to appease their families. Non-supporters of gay marriage in China restrict LGBT rights in the workplace. A 2013 Pew survey found China’s population divided on homosexuality with 21% accepting and 57% rejecting it. Read more via TheNewsLens
Netherlands: Asylum centres step up anti-bullying measures to protect LGBT refugees
Refugee centres are to recruit specialist counsellors for LGBT residents in response to concerns about homophobic bullying. Some asylum seekers’ centres (AZCs) have introduced separate wings to house vulnerable residents, despite the cabinet’s opposition to the idea, the Volkskrant reported.

Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff has said the government should focus its efforts on dealing with offenders rather than isolating the victims. The refugee accommodation service COA said that specialist staff were being trained to act as confidants for gay, lesbian and transgender residents and would start work from 1 August. Read more via DutchNews.nl
Canada: 'It shouldn't be a big thing' -Trudeau in Toronto's Pride parade
Toronto's Pride parade marked an important milestone as Justin Trudeau became the first sitting prime minister to join the annual march. While many are heralding the landmark moment, for Trudeau the fanfare is slightly puzzling.

"It shouldn’t be a big thing that that prime minister is walking in Pride parade and from now on it won’t.”

Having the head of the federal government stand in open solidarity with the community is a poignant reminder that, despite the celebratory party tones, Pride is at its core a political protest, said one activist. Read more via CTV
Canada: Fight for gay rights far from over at small town Manitoba Pride march
There's no escaping religion in small town Manitoba. On the drive to Steinbach, a southeastern city of 14,000, a billboard resurrected in a vast canola field proclaims, "Jesus said: I am the way, the truth, and the life."

To an outsider, it might seem like a bit much, but here in the province's "bible belt" a sign like this is pretty standard. The only place you might not expect to see it is at a gay Pride event. As it turns out, you'd be wrong about that.

On Saturday, Steinbach held its first ever Pride march. It wasn't a parade. There were no floats, hardly any music save for the duo blasting "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on tiny portable speakers, and costumes were few and far between. It lasted all of two blocks. But it was clear that for the people involved—many of whom carried messages that said "God is love" and encouraged people to "love thy neighbour"—none of the bells and whistles mattered. Read more via Huffington Post
Uruguay: Grants territorial asylum to Russian
"Uruguay has territorial Granted asylum and refugee status to a Russian citizen in 2015 WHO Requested it due to the harassment and discrimination I faced in His native country due to His being gay". It's the first time Uruguay grants asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Russian citizen 35 years, argued "being permanently discriminated against and harassed by a homophobic law in force in their country, and the social attitude of almost all of the Russians towards homosexuality". From Diverse Families Association indicated to the Republic, there are two more cases ongoing for the same cause but of two Venezuelan citizens. In this case the asylum has recently been requested and can last up to one year the response of the Foreign Ministry. Read more via Republica
Israel: The triumph of Jerusalem's Gay Pride Parade
Some 25,000 Israelis, including dozens of Knesset members, marched in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade on July 21. They were taking part in much more than a heart-warming show of strength by the LGBTQ community. More than ever, it was a demonstration of enlightened liberalism. At the largest gay pride parade that Jerusalem has ever seen, it was a comforting final note after a very harsh week for the LGBTQ community. Read more via Al Monitor
Israel: Hundreds protest as Beersheba pride parade canceled
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Beersheba city council building to protest the cancellation of the city’s first-ever Gay Pride parade. Organizers had canceled the event Wednesday night to protest a High Court of Justice ruling that allowed police to bar participants from marching through the city’s main thoroughfare due to what police called “real concern” for participants’ safety in the face of threats.

Police officials had urged the court to uphold their decision for an alternate route, saying they could not ensure the safety of all parade participants in the open thoroughfare. Read more via Times of Israel
France: Montpellier Gay Pride canceled after the attack in Nice
The 22nd edition of the Gay Pride Parade - Walk for diversity Montpellier is canceled. Vincent Autin, president of the association Pride Pride Montpellier, organizer of the event, announced in this conference early Friday afternoon. Approximately 20,000 people were expected Saturday, July 16, to participate in the march, which was set off at 18 am from the Peyrou gardens. Walking is postponed to a later date. Read more via Midlibre

France: Nice Postpones Pride parade after attack
In the wake of the horrible attack on Nice over Bastille Day, organizers of the city’s Pride Parade have decided to postpone the event:

On 14 July, our beautiful city of nice suffered an ignoble terrorist attack, resulting in 84 deaths and more than two hundred wounded, including niçois, tourists of all ages and all faiths. Association Aglae (Gays & lesbian provençal expression expression) send its condolences to the families of the victims and joins in the grief that hit our city.

While several victims are not yet identified, that the walls of our city are still covered with APB, that the promenade des anglais still bears the scars of the massacre, that the burial start barely, that the pain and emotion are Huge and unspeakable aglae, made the choice to postpone the pink parade which was to take place this Saturday, 23 July 2016 to Saturday 20 August 2016. Read more via NewNowNext
Canada: Schools want to support safety for LGBTQ students
Most Canadian school administrators want to offer specific supports to enhance the safety of LGBT students, a new study says. The survey headed by Catherine Taylor, an education professor at the University of Winnipeg, surveyed 141 Canadian school divisions, including rural, urban and Catholic divisions. 

"It was significant to find that there is such support and goodwill towards LGBTQ students coming from the top," Taylor said in a news release.

"This suggests that the time has come to end the official and unofficial 'don't say the word gay' rule that still exists in many schools and introduce specific supports to ensure the well-being of LGBTQ youth," she said. Read more via CBC
US: California school officials adopt landmark LGBT coursework
State officials on Thursday added the evolution of gay rights and the contributions of lesbian and gay figures in history to the list of topics that public-school students will be taught in California, a landmark move that puts the ongoing LGBT civil rights fight into the mainstream of public education.

The state Board of Education unanimously approved the new social studies curriculum framework in Sacramento after several years of debate, public input and revisions. The effort drew thousands of written comments as the state board considered what kind of history should be taught in each grade. Read more via SFGate
The Catholic Church in Scotland wants to help tackle homophobia in schools
The Catholic Church in Scotland has indicated that they will help in the fight to curb homophobia in the classroom. Time For Inclusive Education (TIE), a campaign for LGBT-inclusive education in Scottish schools, has said that the Catholic Church in Scotland is willing to help them in their mission.

TIE have been working to introduce teacher training in schools across Scotland to tackle homophobia in the classroom.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Catholic Church said, “The Church is working with the Catholic Head Teacher association to ensure that all teachers have adequate knowledge, understanding, and training and feel confident in addressing all aspects of relationships education, including LGBTI matters, in an appropriate and sensitive way.” Read more via PinkNews
Nepal: LGBTI issues should be expanded in curriculum
Joint Secretary at Ministry of Education Hari Lamsal has said that the issues of gender and sexual minority should be incorporated in the curriculum to end the discrimination to this community. 

He stressed that along with 6, 7 and 8, the issues of gender and sexual minority should be incorporated in all levels. In a meeting with Parshuram Rai, Deputy Director of Blue Diamond Society, Lamsal said it is necessary to make an environment to view this community in a positive way in the society. Read more via Pachichan
LGBT spending power in US estimated to be worth $917billion
LGBT spending power in US estimated to be worth $917billion (€834billion), according to the latest, annual analysis by LGBT marketing firm Witeck Communications.

Witeck’s founder and President, Bob Witeck has been monitoring the spending power of the LGBT market in the US over the past two decades. The new figure
is drawn from 2015 statistics. It represents a rise from $884billion (€804billion) in 2014. The number represents the buying power of the US LGBT community; the disposable personal income that LGBT people have after paying tax and government pension contributions.

Witeck puts the increasing spending power down to greater LGBT equality, but says that there remains a long way to go – with the lack of a federal non-discrimination law being the most obvious example. Read more via Gay Star News
Walgreens gives away pharmacy guide on treating LGBTI customers with respect
Walgreens, the largest drugstore chain in the US, is distributing 70,000 copies of a new resources guide on treating LGBTI customers with respect to health care professionals across the country.

The guide has been produced in partnership with Human Rights Campaign (HRC). It carries information on appropriate LGBTQ terminology and identities, and on the health disparities experienced by LGBTQ people.

‘LGBTQ people often experience barriers to care, and, for many, their most frequent interaction with a health care professional occurs right in their own neighborhood pharmacy,’ said Tari Hanneman, Director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Health Equality Project, in a statement. Read more via Gay Star News
SA: Unilever lights up in rainbow colours for Durban Pride
To celebrate Durban Pride Week consumer goods giant Unilever South Africa has lit up its head office in the city in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple colours. It’s a first for South Africa as a major corporation shows its support for a Pride event in a very public and colourful way. Read more via MambaOnline
The Economic impact of Charlotte losing NBA All-Star Game
Beyond the social statement that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made by pulling the league’s All-Star Game festivities out of Charlotte, there are economic implications, and more.

The NBA withdrew the league’s jewel event after North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed the discriminatory House Bill 2 into law. That law, more commonly known as the “bathroom law” targeted the LGBT community and placed into law that those who are transgender would need to use restrooms that designate by the their birth certificate. The NBA had warned that this law could impact the All-Star Game, and he held to that.

The NBA is using the power of economics to not only make a point, but enact social change. While the NBA would not say how much of an impact the All-Star Game has due to a policy of not disclosing financial information, looking at the entire event, accounting for hotels, restaurants, tourism transportation, and general spending, Charlotte is estimated to lose$100 million according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. It also is a disappointing loss to Michael Jordan and the rest of the Hornets organization which had worked with the league to try and get HB2 addressed, but instead will see losses. Read more via Forbes
Amanda Nunes becomes UFC's first ever openly gay champion Read more
Jordanian LGBT magazine faces threats after publishing in Arabic for the first time Read more
Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality Read more
Reading Prison to celebrate former inmate Oscar Wilde Read more
Indian Dutee Chand, set to run in the Olympics, has been humiliated by sex-testing Read more
Olympics 2016: Triple The Condoms! Read more
Equal Eyes is edited by Christina Dideriksen and Richard Burzynski. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the view of UNAIDS or its Cosponsors.
All stories and photographs linked within are the property of the original publishers.
Equal Eyes Copyright © 2016 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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