Monday, October 25, 2010

MSM, Heteronormativity & HIV/AIDs

Since the discover of HIV/AIDS, the virus has been linked to male homosexual activity. The male homosexual community was severely affected by HIV/AIDS as the virus ran ramped through the community of men who have sex with men (MSM) in North America and Europe in the 1980s and early 90s. The misconception that HIV/AIDS is a solely homosexual virus (starting with GRID), allowed for unsafe sex to continue perpetuating the spread of the virus, while this misconception became a vehicle for homophobia and heteronormativity.

“This belief system has been successfully exploited by antigay individuals and organizations to oppose effective AIDS prevention strategies as well as civil rights for gay men and lesbians. Its persistence in a significant minority of the U.S. population creates the potential for more exploitation in the future” (Capitanio & Herek). As such it is important to ask, how could the existence of heteronormativity or homophobia affect international development? Looking to one the world’s largest NGOs, World Vision, they appeal to the values of the christian-right which is overwhelmingly heteronormative and anti-homosexuality. In the video watched (, one can see that the communities they are choosing to help fit in their moral code and sociopolitical expectations.

Gender is a social construction influenced by the myth of masculinity and femininity, that is essential to ones understanding of one’s sexuality. As such, it has become very important to the western understanding of gender and sexuality to encompass the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Transexual Intersex Queer (LGBTTIQ) umbrella beyond heteronormative assumptions. Yet, one cannot seem to ignore the social aspects of gender and wonders if this western-sexuality could pose issues of hegemony and neo-colonialism when influencing international development. Just as the discussion statement, “Homophobia and Heterosexism are worse in the 3rd world than in the West”, this type of superior attitude can lead to inappropriate development intervention. By what standard do we measure homophobia and heterosexism, when these western terms by definition have cultural roots?

While the LGBTTIQ communities in the west are gaining recognition and equality in their countries, the battle with structural heteronormativity continues. It is clear, that despite possible negatives of introducing ideas of western-sexuality in the developing world, those who participate in non-heterosexual intercourse are marginalized and thus at risk. MSM are at high-risk of HIV infection if they participate in unprotected anal sex, as anal-penetration has a higher transmission rate than vaginal or oral. When MSM is shameful, hidden or illegal, education regarding prevention becomes difficult to administrate.
While MSM and heterosexual intercourse are the dominant ways of spreading the virus it is important that women who have sex with women (WSW) are also educated about possible for risks for them an their partner. While contracting HIV/AIDS through WSW is highly unlikely, the risks lie with contracting other viruses or STIs: it is not AIDS that kills you but what your body cannot fight off as the result of HIV/AIDS.

The question, is the behavior of gay men and bisexuals is blameworthy, seems to have a simple answer for most, and ones answer would signify if one was homophobic or not. However, expanding on the idea of the virus being ‘the gift’, there is always a gift-giver and a receiver ( a bug-catcher). For some a bug-catcher reinforces the blame yet it is important to not miss the psychological factors that lead someone to make these self-destructive decisions. (

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). 'Diagnoses of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2008' Volume 20.

CNN. (2006). ‘CNN Interview: Bug Chasers’

Epprecht, ‘The unsaying of homosexuality in Zimbabwe’J of Sn African Studies 24/4 (1998)

Foster, E. (2009). ‘Homosexuals face execution in Uganda’. University of York. Retrieved September 21, 2010 from

G.M. Herek and JP Capitanio, ‘AIDS stigma and sexual prejudice,’ Am. Behavioural Scientist 42 (1999): 1126-1143 abs99_sp.pdf

Human Rights Watch. (2003). Ravaging the vulnerable: abuses against persons at high risk of HIV infection in Bangladesh. Retrieved September 21, 2010 from

The International Lesbian and Gay Association. (2009). State-sponsored homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults. Retrieved September 21, 2010 from

World Vision. (2007). ‘AIDS: Doomsday Virus in India’ (2010) Personal Submission

No comments:

Post a Comment