Govt softening position on gays?

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<strong>HARARE</strong> - The government has announced plans to set up special health centres for gays, as it bids to curb the spread of HIV/Aids among groups that practice same sex.</p>

This comes despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying recently that gay marriages will continue not to be tolerated in the country.

Health and Child Care permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji said the plan to establish the drop-in-centres for gays was at planning stage at the National Aids Council (Nac).

On its part, the Nac said it had noted that unprotected homosexual sex, especially among men, was — together with unprotected heterosexual sex — among the main transmission routes for HIV.

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It said it didn’t help that the “illegal” nature of homosexuality in the country presented huge barriers for men who have sex with other men to access HIV-related services.

It was in this light that the national Aids advocacy body was mooting establishing the health centres for gays in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Kwekwe.

Nac monitoring and evaluation director Amon Mpofu said the clinics would be called “Men Health Centres”.

“We are trying to help this minority community so that it can access medical services, after realising that they have been discriminated against.

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“This is part of our programme in the fight against the spread of HIV and Aids, as we go towards having zero HIV infections.

“Here, they will be able to discuss their health-related issues, peer education and also pick condoms among other issues that affect them daily,” Mpofu told journalists on Friday at a media editors’ workshop in Kadoma.

Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (Galz) director Chester Samba said they were working together with Nac on the pilot project.

“The drop-in centres will provide space for the community to access services in a nondiscriminatory environment,” Samba said.

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Despite Mnangagwa’s stance, Samba told a news conference in Harare last week that his organisation had approached top Zanu PF officials, whom he claimed understood them better than ousted former president Robert Mugabe’s leadership.

Mugabe characterised homosexuality as “un-African”, a practice he believed was unnatural and “degrades human dignity” — and supposedly practiced by people who behaved “worse than dogs and pigs”.

But presidential spokesperson George Charamba also told the Daily News last week that same-sex marriages remained banned in Zimbabwe, and that this would not change any time soon.

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