In the wake of Nigeria’s passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation, gay and bisexual men living in the country report that they’re reluctant to seek healthcare.
While many of the implications of Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act –– such as increased hostility toward LGBTQ citizens –– were apparent immediately, some of its other effects are slowly beginning to surface. A study conducted by John Hopkins professor Sheree Shwartz found that many gay and bisexual men living in Nigeria now feel that the benefits of seeking HIV prevention and treatment services no longer outweigh the risks. Due to the passage of the Same-Sex Prohibition Act, those who seek these healthcare services run the risk of being outed as LGBTQ, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Shwartz and her colleagues conducted the study using data gathered from a group of 707 gay and bisexual Nigerian men who accessed HIV treatment and preventative care from a community-based non-profit clinic in 2013 and 2014. Before the law was enacted, the men made a total of 756 visits to the clinic. Following the legislation’s passage, that number dropped to 420.
The study’s other findings were unfortunate, though not unexpected. Shwartz discovered that many participants feared that seeking health care would put their privacy at risk, and in the homophobic climate created by the Same-Sex Marriage Prevention Act, a breach of privacy could have grave repercussions for LBGTQ Nigerians. A sizable 38 percent of study participants reported that they’d felt anxious about seeking HIV/STI (sexually transmitted illness) treatment after the enactment of the law, compared to about 25 percent before the law passed. Further, 28 percent of participants said they had avoided seeking health care altogether after the legislation was enacted.
In a paper featured in The Lancet HIV, Schwartz emphasized the relationship between good policy and effective STI education and treatment. “One of the important points people can take away from this is that a supportive policy environment is really important to support HIV prevention and treatment programs,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz proceeded to explain that while she and her team don’t want to become too involved in politics, she believes that access to proper healthcare should never be controversial. “Definitely there are a lot of same-sex behavior acts that are illegal, but what is not illegal and remains part of the agenda is that everyone has a right to healthcare,” explained Schwartz.
Reuters Health: Nigerian gay, bi men report more fear in healthcare after law