A new anti-gay law signed on Monday by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan risks hindering progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The new legislation – which bans gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups and contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison – will prevent gay people in the country from accessing essential HIV services, and is likely to spur further hatred of the LGBT community, the two organisations said.
Nigeria had an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in 2012, the world’s second largest HIV epidemic, they said. In 2010, HIV prevalence in Nigeria was estimated at 4 percent among the general population and 17 percent among men who have sex with men, UNAIDS said.
“The provisions of the new law in Nigeria could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,” Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS executive director, said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“It could also be used against organisations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people,” Sidibé added.
President Jonathan’s own response plan for HIV/AIDS could be undermined by the new law, the organisations warned.
Under existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but the new document legislates for a much broader crackdown on homosexuals and lesbians, who already live a largely underground existence.
The law has drawn criticism from the international community with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying he was deeply concerned by the new measures.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that human rights activists had denounced the arrest of dozens of gay men in northern Nigeria in events apparently connected with the approval of the anti-gay law.