Monday, April 6, 2009

Ministerial decree to reduce homophobia in health services

The Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance of El Salvador approved a decree to reduce homophobia in health care services as part of the country's National Plan on HIV Prevention.

According to an article by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, a country progress report from 2008 indicated that human rights violations as a main barrier to an effective response to the spread of AIDS in El Salvador. This new decree, therefore, is one of several actions being taken to "reduce homophobia and any type of discrimination based on sexual orientation in the health services." To measure the health providers' accountability to this decree, the Minister has asked that health institutions report back how they have reduced homophobia in their health services, though it is unclear what standards would be used or actions would be taken to sanction those who do not make improvements.

According to UNAIDS, 17.8% of men who have sex with men are infected with HIV. The article asserts, "Stigma and homophobia increase the isolation of gays, bisexuals and transgender people making them more reluctant to come forward, get advice and access HIV services such as treatment, testing and counseling."

As exciting as this new decree is for El Salvador, I hope that the Ministry of Public Health and Assistance provides training and education for health providers on homophobia. Without training and education, it seems impossible and almost unfair to hold health providers accountable for homophobia in their health services when many doctors, nurses, and staff may not have a clue about what homophobia is and how they can combat it. What do you think?

*Pictures taken from Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

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