Kasonkomona was held for four days, pleaded not guilty, and was released on bail on Thursday,
April 11. The case comes at the same there has been "
a frightening increase in violations of LGBT people's rights
" in Zambia, according to one human rights group. The openly gay and HIV positive activist says police denied him access to "his tuberculosis and antiretroviral drugs [and] put his life at risk."
Kasonkomona's plight illustrates the deeply religious and conservative nation's obsessive anti-gay animus -- which is complicating its fight against
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV/AIDS. Zambia in
particular has the misfortune of being home to " one of the world's most devastating HIV and AIDS epidemics," reports the advocacy group AVERT:
"More than one in every seven adults in the country is living with HIVand life expectancy at birth has fallen to just 49 years. ... Overall HIV
prevalence was 13.5 percent [and] has been reported as high as 25 percent in some urban areas. ... Unlike in some countries, HIV in Zambia does not primarily
affect the most underprivileged. Infection rates are very high among wealthier people and the better educated."
The "devastating epidemic" has become a significant obstacle to Zambia's economic development. The loss of workers and production hours, especially around
agriculture, has increased "stubbornly high poverty rates" and food
insecurity, reports the Central Intelligence Agency.
To complicate matters: Some researchers believe Zambia -- and other African nations -- is home to an escalating and often untreated HIV epidemic among gay
and bisexual men. Few epidemiological studies have been conducted among gay and bisexual men in Africa thanks to the widespread criminalization of same-sex
acts across the continent. But infection rates are often two to three times the general population, "and in Zambia, a 2006 study revealed a self-reported
HIV prevalence of 33 percent" among gay and bi men, reports
PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
found that 50 percent of men "reported having sex with both men and women in the last twelve months" and at least nine out of 10 "do not know condoms are
used in anal sex. The data suggests sex between men [is] at the core of HIV transmission in many Zambian contexts."
The Zambian National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan does not include include gay and bisexual men -- or men in prisons, who are "at serious risk of
drug-resistant TB and HIV infection," reports Human Rights
Former Presidents Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Festus Mogae of Botswana have
for the decriminalization of sodomy statutes across Africa. The
harsh penalties encourage anti-gay sentiment
and dissuade gay men who are HIV positive against seeking treatment, said the former