The Lancet has done several good articles and opinion pieces on how anti-gay laws negatively impacted health care around the world. In this article from February 8, 2014 points to several countries including Cameroon:
In Cameroon, he estimates that somewhere between 30% and 50% of MSM may be infected with HIV and other countries with high HIV burden have also had challenges in providing supportive health services. “It’s interesting because we were asking ourselves why health workers weren’t doing more so we interviewed some in Malawi and we found they…were worried if they’d be legally liable as aiding and abetting, so there was a real fear about providing services”, he says.This situation is a concern for UNAIDS because no one really knows exactly how many services are being provided and who they are reaching, and it’s hard to push for changes in the laws without the data to prove there is a problem. “We need systems to collect such data because no one’s doing the collection”, says Timberlake who is working on ways to get this done. “One way is to support civil society groups where the population is criminalised and another is by getting the government and the AIDS bodies to understand that there will be an impact and put systems in place. A third way is to send in outside bodies to do the studies.”In addition to losing services, Restoy says “our partner organisations have documented a number of cases of discrimination in public health-care settings and refusals to provide treatment for the LGBTI [LGBT and intersex] community”. If there aren’t enough resources to treat everyone, “those who are branded as ‘criminals’ are the first to be denied treatment or be discriminated against”, he says.
Within Cameroon there are disparities in the infected MSM population between cities. For example, Yaounde’s MSM population’s HIV/AIDS infection rate of 44% in Yaounde is almost double that in Douala 24%. (Figures from the 2012 PEPFAR country operating plan.)
During our visit to both Yaounde and Douala one of the reasons could be that Douala’s LGBT civil society community is far more advanced and networked than Douala. Douala’s LGBT groups are also better funded than Yaounde because they are better organized. The disparity isn’t through a lack of trying. Yaounde is struggling to recover from the brutal murder of one of the major leaders in their LGBT rights community Eric Lembembe last year. The Yaounde activists are still hurting – grieving. We learned that during our visit at a training workshop Rev. Ogle was conducting that turned into a group grief counseling session.
Arrests are also more commonplace in Yaounde than Douala. Some of the activists in Douala attributed that fact to Douala being more open a society (relatively) than Yaounde. I am trying to find figures and statistics on the health of the LGBT population in prison (let alone the uninfected who go into the prison and come out infected). More on that as soon as I can get some more information together.