The Health and Family Welfare Ministry has expressed concern over the Supreme Court order that gay sex is illegal, saying the ruling will prevent vulnerable communities from accessing health facilities for fear of discrimination and stigma.
“We are concerned that this will discourage people from seeking health care, and consulting with doctors, counsellors and health workers,” Ministry Secretary Keshav Desiraju told The Hindu on Thursday.
The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) is defined as a high-risk group by the National AIDS Control Organisation — now the Department of AIDS Control — with HIV infection prevalence among men having sex with men (MSM) being the highest, between 6.54 and 7.23 per cent. This is the second most vulnerable community after injection drug users.
According to the NACO 2010-11 annual report, India had an estimated 40 lakh persons in the MSM community, of whom 10 per cent were at risk of contracting HIV infection.
The Department of AIDS Control provides inclusive healthcare service for gay men and transgenders primarily for checking HIV infections, and the service was being accessed by a large number of the LGBT community following the 2009 Delhi High Court judgement that had struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalised “unnatural sex.”
Now “we have gone back by many years. None of us can walk into a health care centre for fear of discrimination and blackmailing,” said transgender activist Lakshmi Tripathi.
The HIV Estimation of 2012 suggests an overall reduction of 57 per cent in the annual new HIV infections (among adult population) from 2.74 lakh in 2000 to 1.16 lakh in 2011, reflecting the impact of various interventions and scaled-up prevention strategies.
Based on these outcomes, the Department of AIDS Control designed the fourth phase of NACP (2012-17) to accelerate the process of reversal and further strengthen the epidemic response. The main objectives of NACP are reducing new infections and providing comprehensive care and support to all People Living with HIV and treatment services for all those who require them.
While HIV prevalence shows declining trends among female sex workers, MSM, injecting drug users and single male migrants are emerging as important risk groups.