Indonesia cracks down on gays … and fuels HIV epidemic

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Jeffrey Hutton writes at the South China Morning Post:

Since early last year, government officials have made increasingly shrill and homophobic pronouncements, including one from Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu that likened the spread of tolerance toward homosexuals to a proxy war waged by the West. The hysteria culminated in a series of arrests of gay men, including a young couple in Aceh who were publicly caned for having sex.

The knock-on effect has been to drive HIV treatment and outreach underground. Bizarrely, in some cases this means keeping the location of life-saving treatments a secret – albeit an open one. Jakarta’s main clinic, which Prabowo’s organisation supports, declined repeated requests for interviews. It has no website and is known only by word of mouth. Its organisers asked that its identity be withheld out of fear it would be attacked by conservatives. In text messages, its chief medical officer seemed eager to distance the clinic from suggestions it was primarily for gay men.

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