A conference on HIV/AIDS and men who have sex with men has been successfully held in Ethiopia as a satellite event of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) despite outroar from religious groups and homosexuality remaining a serious offence in the North African nation.

The event, “Claim, Scale-up and Sustain”, was organised by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) and was to be held at Addis Ababa’s Jupiter Hotel but was forced to move to the UN Conference Centre after being widely reported in the Ethiopian press.

Leaders from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, Islam and Protestant churches were to hold a press conference condemning the conference on November 29 but were apparently dissuaded from doing so after meeting with Health Minister Tewodros Adhanom.

Conference organisers expected around 200 people from 25 countries to attend, with keynpte speakers including UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe and US Global AIDS coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby.

AMSHeR is a coalition of 15 organisations from Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe and campaigns for MSM rights and their inclusion in national HIV strategies.

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