Cameroon: Secret video club gives respite to gay men in Cameroon

The club is secret. You have to know someone who will guide you to the address -- off a busy street in Cameroon's capital, down a dingy alley to a door with the unwelcoming message in chalk: "No entry." Inside is a rectangular room, dark and humid. The flickering light of a video screen illuminates faces of young men sitting on benches -- members of a video club catering exclusively for gay men, a haven in a society where it is perilous to be same-sex attracted.

"We opened this place in 2016 to give young people somewhere where they can just breathe for a while," says Jean-Pierre, 51, the founder of the club, who prefers not to give his full name. "In the afternoon, we show documentaries about the gay community, with comedy series in the evening and later in the night, films of a sexual nature," he explains.

Maxime, 30, and his companion come several times a week. "It's vital to be able to find our own kind, to talk with people who are like you, who understand you."

The club also exists to help gays aware of the risk of HIV, which flourishes wherever there is stigma.

The prevalence of HIV among adults in Cameroon in 2016 was 4.3 percent, according to a study supported by US Agency for International Development (USAID). But the rate soars among high-risk groups such as gays, rising to 45.1 percent in Yaounde, according to its figures for 2016.

In a corner of the video club, three young men are sitting on a battered sofa, looking tense and waiting for their names to be called. One of them gets up to go through a narrow door into an antechamber, where he is greeted by two men in white coats.Roughly once a week, teams from Humanity First visit the premises to undertake HIV tests, provide advice and condoms.

"Most of them don't go to health centres for fear of being stigmatised, so we go to them," said Jean-Paul Enama, the head of Humanity First. Read more via AFP