Afraid to talk about it, afraid to be rejected, afraid one’s life will completely change, and afraid to be stoned to death. Well, one should be, if he or she was born and raised in Africa. Conversation about sexuality between African parents and children rarely occurs, at least not until one is about to get married because a child is expected to preserve one’s chastity or virginity for one’s future husband or wife.
The video below (click here to watch) shows a young man who had been rejected by his family when they learned that he was gay. They sent him away, along with his little sister, because they feared that she might also turn out to be lesbian. He has had difficulty finding a job; therefore, he decided to become a sex worker. On top of all the problems he has, he is also HIV positive and does not usually use protection because most men are willing to pay him more money if he does not. He also does not tell these men (some married) that he is HIV positive; thus, the men pass on the disease to their wives.
On one hand, I understand that, as a big brother, he feels responsibility to take care of his sister. Having more money coming in will be a good thing. On the other hand, as a public health student, I wonder if is it right to put other people’s lives in danger by exposing them to HIV/AIDS for one’s own survival? Should we blame this young man for what he is doing or should we blame the society’s reaction toward homosexuality? Does this man have any other alternatives? Not that I know of because, if his own family did not accept him as he is, we cannot necessarily expect a total stranger to do so, either.
Having people like this young man in our society is sabotaging the Public Health effort toward the fight against HIV/AIDS because Public Health officials are trying to reduce the spread of it while other people are consciously spreading it. How can we approach this issue at the local or national level when sex is considered a taboo subject to talk about in most African countries? Perhaps, the governments can establish regulations on workers’ health confidentiality and create jobs for HIV-positive people. However, all these are not easy to implement when not everyone can afford or have access to antiretroviral drugs. Second, the thought of homosexuality is even more confusing and complex for Africans to understand.
What do you think?