Being gay is not a choice, and those who are gay face significant stigma and discrimination around the globe. Organizations that offer false promises of “praying the gay away” and “curing” people of homosexuality are making appearances in many of these communities. One HIV Advocate, Maurice Tomlinson, hopes to educate others on the negative effects of these types of approaches.
Tomlinson struggled with his sexuality for many years. During his struggle, he joined a group that claimed it could “cure” him of his sexual attraction to men. After several months, Tomlinson came to accept that being gay is not a disease meant to be cured, and that these meeting were holding people back.
Instead of teaching men who have sex with men (MSM) to live safe, healthy lifestyles, groups like the one Tomlinson joined teach adult men to deny and hide their feelings. This in turn encourages uneducated, unsafe behavior. MSM who want to hide their behavior from friends and family are less likely to use condoms so that they have less evidence to hide.
Stigma surrounding people living with HIV also keeps MSM that are trying to hide their sexual orientation from getting tested. Many of these men fear that if they are seen at a clinic, they will then face discrimination in their communities and their orientation will be discovered.
What can we do? It’s important to educate others on the facts about HIV and homosexuality. It’s not a choice, and it’s not something to be cured. Instead, our communities should focus on teaching safe sex, healthy lifestyles, and should encourage others to get tested regularly. Policies that help keep discrimination and stigma at bay can help significantly with this process.
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