42- Latin America fights homophobia with controversial campain The gay latin lover…

Toronto – The Latin lover stereotype is one of a much sought after, rugged, bronze, heterosexual and very macho man. But facts are he isnʼt always straight and is often made to pay the price for his sexual preferences in largely homophobic societies.
Crimes against homosexuals all over the world include murder, torture and arbitrary imprisonment. They are denied health services and employment, and often face verbal abuse. But while there are several United Nations standards to protect the rights of men who have sex with men (MSM), most governments are reluctant to address the issue because of the stigma involved. Homophobia increases their vulnerability to HIV and is one of the main drivers of the Aids epidemic.
“The impact of HIV/Aids on MSM continues to be overlooked or simply ignored by most governments and funders around the world, resulting in poor to non-existent prevention and care,” said Shivananda Khan, a member of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV that was launched at the 16th International Aids Conference in Toronto.
In an audacious move, Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Colombia have decided to run bold campaigns against homophobia on prime-time television, radio and imposing billboards. They were initiated by governments, with support from UN agencies and local voluntary groups.
Brazilian society was in for a shock in June 2002, when a 30- second spot showing parents supporting their son after he separates from his male lover over the issue of unprotected sex, aired on prime time TV. The spot ended with a message from the health ministry: “Respecting differences is as important as using a condom.” “The health minister first spoke about homosexuality in a national broadcast that year. It was very polemic because most people didnʼt understand why a politician was supporting this issue,” said Carlos Passarelli, deputy director of the health ministryʼs national Aids programme.
Two years later a campaign called Brazil Against Homophobia was officially launched. “We distributed manuals on combating violence against gay men all over Brazil. The foreign affairs ministry got involved, and copies were sent to all our embassies,” Passarelli told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa.
Brazil Without Homophobiaʼs message to is that “as long as there are citizens whose fundamental rights are not respected for reasons related to discrimination based on sexual preference, race, ethnic background, age, religious beliefs or political opinions, it may not be said that Brazil is a fair, egalitarian, democratic and tolerant nation,” Passarelli says May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, was incorporated into the Brazilian national calendar this year, he said.
Mexico also launched an anti-homophobia campaign with radio spots in 17 states that reported crimes against gay men. One described a mother having dinner with her son and his lover. This year the campaign was extended to all 31 states and also shown on TV, according to Arturo Diaz of the non-governmental organisation Letra, who conceptualised the campaigns.
While Colombia and Chile introduced anti-homophobia messages in their condom promotion campaigns, Argentinaʼs was the boldest, depicting two men passionately kissing. “What is so ʻunusualʼ about these campaigns? That they break a taboo subject? Yes. Their daring tone? Yes,” according to Paulo Lyra, communications advisor with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), who wrote about their impact and presented a poster at the Toronto conference.
“Their most remarkable feature was the effort to change the social norm. For the first time, ministries of health across the region, working together with civil society, moved away from individual behaviour change campaigns and focused instead on changing society as a whole – in this case, its centuries-old attitude toward homosexual men,” he said.