Homosexuality and HIV in India
The illegality of gay sex hinders the fight against AIDS, reports Balaji Ravichandran
In August 2008 the health minister of India, Anbumani Ramadoss, shocked the political establishment by calling for the decriminalisation of gay sex. Under section 377 of the Indian penal code, which dates from the 1860s, penetrative sex other than heterosexual vaginal intercourse is punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
In India at least 2.5 million men self identify as exclusively homosexual. The legal pressure for homosexuality to remain clandestine compromises India's ability to fight HIV and AIDS, which is a huge problem: an estimated 2.4 million people have AIDS.
Section 377 has seldom been used to secure convictions. However, according to Human Rights Watch, the law is regularly used to blackmail, harass, and threaten gay men and women, and cases of rape by the police have been reported.
People with HIV also face widespread discrimination. According to UNAIDS, at least 25% of people who present to government hospitals