Twenty seven men who have sex with men received training on sexual health and rights this month during a three-day training workshop organised by the Sexual Rights Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

The workshop which was held at a local lodge in Bulawayo saw men who have sex with men addressing issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual health, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), human rights in terms of accessing health services, protection and the use of condoms and other methods to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs.

The Director of the Sexual Rights Centre, Mrs. Sian Maseko said that the objectives of the workshop were to train men who have sex with men in their human rights and develop a strategy to advocate for those rights, disseminate information and resources about services for men who have sex with men, produce resources and a manual about HIV/AIDS and sexual health, train a group of men who have sex with men in issues of HIV/AIDS, sexuality, sexual violence including information about referral systems, medical practitioners, counsellors and HIV/AIDS organisations and to develop an advocacy campaign with the group to target campaign to address stigma and discrimination.

The topics covered during the three-day workshop explored methods of protection from contracting STIs including HIV and the importance of using protection as a strategy to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS. Participants at the workshop were taught how to correctly use, remove condoms and discard used condoms. They also discussed types of sex between men who have sex with men and the risk factors involved.

“We addressed the signs and symptoms of STIs or medical problems specific to men who have sex with men, including gut infections, rectal gonorrhea and anal herpes. We discussed human rights and explored the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it applies to men who have sex with men and proposed rights that should be included in Zimbabwe’s new Constitution to protect men who have sex with men,” said Mrs Maseko. In addition, participants considered the advantages and disadvantages of coming out and some strategies to facilitate ‘coming out’.

Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe and many homosexuals have experience violent assaults, discrimination and mistreatment.

The Sexual Rights Centre works directly with LGBTI persons to develop their skills and empower them with information and resources while develop their ability to actively participate in the organisation’s broader national advocacy programme.

“The purpose of our programme is not to initiate a debate or dialogue about whether homosexuality is right or wrong because the situation is not conducive to that argument. Our programme seeks to reduce stigma and discrimination and increase understanding and awareness of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Intersex issues,” said Mrs Maseko.

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