We value some lives more than others

"The real reason we haven’t beaten the epidemic boils down to one simple fact: We value some lives more than others. 

We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor. And adults more than adolescents. I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference... it doesn't single out the vulnerable, the oppressed or the abused. We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed and the abused. We ignore them, we let them suffer and then we let them die."

~ actress Charlize Theron, addressing the 21st International AIDS Conference in South Africa

AIDS2016: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the opening press conference to the 21st International AIDS Conference (IAC), urging attendees to 'finish what we started' and end the epidemic. He noted the need to fast-track response and 'close the gaps' that obstruct access to services. In particular, he noted:


"We have to protect and promote the rights of people living with HIV, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs and prisoners."

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé added he was 'scared' because 'competing priorities' have led to a decline in donor support—"If we continue with this trend we will not be able to end AIDS by 2030. We will have a rebound in infections; we will have resistance, we will lose our investment and we will have to pay more later as we did with malaria."

And South African actress Charlize Theron opened the conference with an impassioned plea, stating that 'AIDS doesn't discriminate on its own' and urging the world to embrace the tools at our disposal to beat the epidemic instead of making 'excuses.'

Also in attendance, Sir Elton John and Prince Harry co-hosted a youth focused special session. Sir John announced the launch of a joint $10 million LGBT Fund supported by PEPFAR and his foundation.

From the UN: UNAIDS launched a new 'Key Population Atlas'—an interactive data source and visualization tool for information on the AIDS epidemic among gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, prisoners, sex workers, and transgender people.

UNAIDS health economist Erik Lamontagne calculated the cost of homophobia and found that discrimination against gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men could be costing Western Europe and North America over $49 billion, Asia and Pacific over $88 billion, and a worldwide cost of up to $119.1 billion GDP.

Last month the Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favor of a resolution to appoint an independent expert to monitor human rights violations against LGBTI people. Dr. Henning Melber broke down the 'heated debate' that lead up to the vote, exposing the challenges still faced by advocates for LGBTI equality. The call for applications for the position has been posted on OHCHR.

HIV, Health, and Wellness: The Lancet published a follow up on the global response to HIV in gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men, noting that in four years progress remains 'uneven' and that global efforts to address the epidemic are 'insufficient' to achieve an AIDS free generation.

During an AIDS 2016 pre-conference event hosted by MSMGF, participants discussed the demand for PrEP and lack of access, especially in low and middle income countries. And at pre-conference event 'No More Lip Service' global trans activists discussed how trans people have been excluded from PrEP research.

In the UK some health experts warned that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are resorting to 'desperate measures' to acquire PrEP.

In countries where anti-LGBT legislation has increased, activists and health workers report difficulties in providing HIV treatment and prevention services to key populations. In Russia officials blacklisted the country's leading HIV NGOs as 'foreign agents' engaged in political activity. The identification prevents groups from receiving funds and could lead to organizations shutting down all activity.

In Uganda, where health providers say restrictive legislation and homophobia has kept LGBTI people from seeking help, organizations are bringing HIV testing and counseling to the only gay friendly bar. And a new report from China found that HIV response is hindered by police who target male, female, and trans sex workers who carry condoms.

In Australia leading AIDS organizations announced that AIDS is no longer a public health issue, with incidence of new infections 'too low' to be recorded. Though others warn that the 'HIV is no big deal' mentality is driving new cases, especially among young Australians. Meanwhile Indigenous community infectious disease expert James Ward warned that rates of sexually transmitted infections are increasing in the community even as funding cuts have slashed prevention programing.

Separate studies from South Africa and the US both found that LGBTI individuals experience significantly poorer mental and physical health than heterosexuals. And data from the US CDC found that gay and bisexual male teens have higher drug use, leading to riskier sex than their straight counterparts.

After US-based research found that lesbian and bisexual women have poorer health than heterosexual women, a first of its kind study has been launched to identify and address the 'unique concerns' of these women.

From the World of Politics: For the first time Latin America hosted an international LGBTI human rights conference. Held in Uruguay, participants from governments, multilateral institutions, and rights organizations explored how to incorporate the rights of LGBTI people in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and launched the international Equal Rights Coalition for LGBTI people.

The Iranian government announced plans to hold an international human rights conference on Islamic Human Rights principles that will specifically exclude LGBT rights and other 'Western' issues that 'are not universally accepted.'

The US Congress held hearings to consider the 'First Amendment Defense Act'which would allow businesses and government workers to refuse service to LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs. And the US Republican National Committeeadded support for conversion therapy, anti-transgender laws, and opposition to same-sex marriage to the party platform.

Meanwhile, in Japan the conservative Liberal Democratic Party has included 'promoting understanding of sexual diversity' in its political platform.

From Tanzania, reports surfaced of a crackdown on homosexuality including a ban on 'obscene behavior.' Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu has also banned the import and sale of lubricant because it 'encourages homosexuality' and spreads HIV.

Zimbabwe's National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda told Parliament thathomosexuality in prisons should no longer be ignored as it spreads HIV and TB.

The National Assembly of France voted in favor of an amendment allowing adults and 'emancipated minors' to legally change genders without undergoing surgery or sterilization. Meanwhile Bolivia's newly approved gender identity law—passed by Congress in May—has been met with resistance, especially by the church.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that trans people will no longer be banned from openly serving in the military as their identifying gender.

The Politics of Union: The Bermuda Senate rejected an amendment to the Human Rights Act passed by the House of Assembly that would have defined marriage as an act between a man and a woman.

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted that a public vote on marriage equality—first proposed in 2015— will likely be delayed until 2017. The vote, or plebiscite, is expected to cost over $100million AUD and would not bind politicians to support the results.

Let the Courts Decide: The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Hungary for detaining LGBT asylum seekers in facilities in which they are unsafe and that 'reproduce the plight that forced these persons to flee in the first place.'

The Constitutional Court of Romania approved an initiative led by the conservative group Coalition for Family to amend the constitution and define 'family' as a union between a man and a woman.

A court has ruled that international dating company Spark Networks must change its four dating sites to accommodate same-sex couples.

Ten US states have joined a lawsuit against the Obama administration to stop regulations aimed at protecting trans students. Another 12 states have filed a brief insupport of the protections. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin a student is suing his school system for ongoing stigmatization, including allegedly telling trans students to wear identifying green armbands. And in Minnesota a father is suing the school district for failing to protect his son from homophobic bullying that led to the 13-year old's suicide.

And for the first time in Peru a 19-year old lesbian, with the help of the Center for Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (PROMSEX), has brought criminal charges against her parents for verbal and physical abuse she suffered due to her sexuality.

In the Name of Religion: The Vatican announced that Cardinal Nicolás Rodríguez of the Santo Domingo Archdiocese resigned. The Cardinal was often caught in controversy for routinely using homophobic slurs against the openly gay US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, USA released new pastoral guidelines that prohibit unwed sexually active heterosexual couples and couples in same-sex relationships from receiving communion or from serving in the church.

Popular Iraqi Shiite clergyman Muqtada Sadr issued a religious decree prohibiting violence against gender-non-conforming individuals. The decree categorizes those who cross-dress or are gay as 'suffering psychologically' that should not be punished.

In Ireland the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council invited members of the LGBT community to share Iftar—the meal that breaks the day's fast during Ramadan. Council imam Dr Umar AL-Qadri said the invitation was important as 'an example of true Islamic ideals.'

Polish organization Faith and Rainbow LGBT announced they will set up a 'LGBT Pilgrim's Haven' during the pope's visit to Krakow for World Youth Day—the week long festivities held every 3 years in a different country and attended by several million young people.

The Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted in favor of authorising same-sex marriage.

Fear and Loathing: In Brazil, several gay or trans people have been brutally murdered in unrelated events over the last month highlighting the ongoing violence perpetrated on LGBT Brazilians. According to Groupa Gay da Bahia's data, a gay or trans person is killed almost every day.

While filming her reality series, celebrity trans teen Jazz Jennings was told she'might as well kill herself' during a radio call-in show. In Mexico officials found the burned body of trans beauty queen Paulett Gonzalez who went missing a month ago.

In a new article in East Asia Quarterly professor Sharyn Davies explored Indonesia'swave of 'panic' and intolerance over LGBT issues thus far in 2016.

Winds of Change: The Williams Institute has used empirical data to explore howinternational development and human rights advocates might address the needs of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities.

Human Rights Watch released a new report on forced anal exams perpetrated on men and trans women to 'prove' homosexual conduct. Although experts, including the UN special rapporteur on torture, have called the exams 'medically worthless'amounting to 'torture' and the International Forensic Expert Group has described the exams as 'a form of sexual assault and rape,' the practice continues in at least 8 countries.

Thailand's Department of Corrections announced a new pilot program to separate LGBT inmates from the general populace for 'their own safety.' At least 4,448 prisoners classified as LGBT will be moved to facilities at the Min Buri Prison of Bangkok.

A new survey from Canada found that a majority of Canadians expect there to be agay prime minister within the next ten years. Using US survey data, researchers found that the number of self-identifying transgender adults in the nation has doubled in the last 10 years.

From South Africa sex worker and trans activist Leigh Davids shared her experience participating in the International AIDS Conference. From Nepal intersex activist Esan Regmi spoke to UNAIDS about his experiences growing up and participating in the first national meeting on intersex issues.

Shane Ng, a student from Hong Kong, described how secrecy and fear over her sexuality led to suicide attempts, commitment to a mental institution, and the eventual emigration from China. And journalist Michael Luongo reflected on what 'growing up gay' means to men in Afghanistan.

Japanese nonprofits Iwate Rainbow Network and Kochi Help Desk have published a bilingual guidebook for gender and sexual minorities caught in natural disasters, pulling from the needs identified during recent earthquakes and tsunamis.

On the March: The Netherlands has attempted to improve the situation forvulnerable asylum seekers with trained staff and private wings for women and LGBT persons at some centers. Meanwhile Uruguay reportedly granted asylum to a gay Russian man—the first time the country has extended asylum based on a person's sexual orientation.

For the first time in Canada, a sitting prime minister joined Toronto's annual Prideparade with PM Justin Trudeau marching alongside gay HIV positive Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash. While 'tens of thousands' marched in Toronto, organizers of the first pride event in Steinbach, Manitoba—a small religious town in southern Canada—were surprised when an estimated 3,000 people arrived, forcing police to clear extra roads for the march.

In Beersheba, Israel, hundreds protested after the High Court of Justice cited 'safety concerns' and canceled the city's first Pride event. Meanwhile nearly 25,000 attended the Jerusalem Pride March a year after a man's stabbed six participants killing a 16-year old.

Pride festivities in Montpellier, France were cancelled and those in Nice postponed after the tragic attack on Nice's Bastille Day celebrations that killed 84 people.

School Days: A survey funded by a $2 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that a majority of school administrators feel their schoolsneed more specific support programming for LGBTQ youth.

The Catholic Church of Scotland has reportedly joined the Time For Inclusive Education campaign to add LGBT issues to education in Scottish schools. And in the US, California became the first state to add LGBT issues and civil rights history to the public school curriculum.

And Nepal's Joint Secretary at Ministry of Education Hari Lamsal called for gender and sexual minority issues to be incorporated into education curriculums at all levels.

Business and Technology: A new analysis of US economy estimated that thespending power of LGBT community is worth an estimated $917 billion (€834 billion).

The largest drugstore chain in the US began distributing resource guides to theirhealthcare providers and pharmacists with information on LGBTQ terminology and identities, health disparities, and topics such as transitioning, HIV, and PrEP.

To celebrate Durban Pride Week, consumer goods giant Unilever South Africa lit its headquarters up in rainbow colors and released a statement of support for the community.

Sports and Culture: The International Olympic Committee ordered 350,000 male condoms, 100,000 female condoms, and 175,000 packets of lubricant to hand out at the Olympic village.

Indian Olympic athlete Dutee Chand spoke out about the humiliating 'gender verification' tests she has routinely been subjected to because of her superior performance in track and field events.

Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter Amanda Nunes became the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first openly gay champion.

The US National Basketball Association announced it will move the 2016 All Star Game out of North Carolina due to the state's anti-LGBT House Bill 2. The NBA's decision came after NC lawmakers refused to make significant changes to the bill and could cost the state over $100 million in lost revenue.

After nine years publishing exclusively in English, an online Jordanian LGBT magazine published its first edition in Arabic and founders received their first death threats.

In South Africa, the African Democratic Institute and Gay & Lesbian Memory in Action hosted a screening of documentary film Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality.

And finally, if you find yourself in Berkshire, England this fall check out the exhibition The Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison at HM Prison Reading—the prison that held playwright Oscar Wilde from 1895 to 1897 for gross indecency after his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas was exposed. The two month event will feature art installations and readings by actors Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and others.