Monday Music: Zero Discrimination

What do Angolan pop star Titica, South African R & B singer Loyiso Bala, and elder statesman of Malian music, Toumani Diabaté, have in common?

They all support the UNAIDS Zero Discrimination campaign, which was celebrated on the 1st of March. Here’s Loyiso Bala’s message.

The campaign aims to promote tolerance, compassion and peace, particularly in relation to HIV, because stigma and discrimination are the main impediments to reducing the impact of this virus. You can view other video messages here.

I assume that Loyiso Bala is committed to zero discrimination due to his Christian faith, because his music career seems almost entirely based on songs of praise and the teachings of the Bible.

I hope he walks the talk. One of the biggest challenges for some religious folk, as we have seen from the harsh new law criminalising homosexuality in Uganda, is choosing not to stigmatise people who are gay or transgender. People like Titica, who knows first-hand about the damage of stigma, and sings of ‘one love’ in this next video. In the spirit of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardis Gras, also celebrated last Saturday, I dedicate this one to all my Queer friends and colleagues.

I hope that African Christians and Muslims can open their hearts and minds when it comes to homosexuality. Perhaps they could take Zambian Pastor Rev. Canon Kapya Kaoma as a model. His article on the political background to the anti-gay movement in Africa is well worth a read.

Criminalising gays, sex workers and drug users is not only inhumane, it is counterproductive when it comes to HIV. People who are stigmatised are less likely to understand HIV risks, test for HIV, obtain treatment, or seek support, because they fear being discriminated against, or, in places like Uganda, being reported to the police and perhaps ending up in prison. Or dead. This of course means that they are more likely to get, and spread, HIV … der. So respecting people’s human rights is actually one of our best weapons against the virus. This is why UNAIDS says:

“Without achieving zero discrimination it will be impossible to realize zero new HIV infections or zero AIDS-related deaths.”

It’s also why Femi and Seun Kuti make it into my Zero Discrimination musical hall of fame today, even though they are not HIV ambassadors. Both recently published articles in support of gays and lesbians. I like Femi’s point that his father Fela Kuti would have been quick to condemn Nigeria’s anti-gay legislation as a ploy to distract people from problems such as poverty and corruption, and Seun’s message that ‘Love over fear should be the way forward‘.

So in the spirit of love, I bring you my final choice (saving the best till last). I’ve been fortunate enough to see Toumani Diabate perform at the Sydney Opera House. He impressed me then with his charm and sweetness, as well as his command of the kora. He’s one of my favourite musicians so I am very proud that he is spreading the zero discrimination message. It’s nice to have a musical hero who’s also a social justice hero.

I’ll leave the last word with him:

“People living with and affected by HIV are often not treated with the respect they deserve. I want to help stop AIDS-related stigma and discrimination by speaking to my audience about the facts of HIV. By knowing the facts, people can be empowered to make informed choices and help support people living with HIV.”

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