The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has praised Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma for making a strong statement that “vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth”.

It is believed to be the first time a Commonwealth head has made such an emphatic statement on the issue.

Sharma made the comments while opening the 2011 Commonwealth Law Minsters meeting in Sydney on Monday. He also highlighted the significance of last year’s Delhi High Court ruling that decriminalised homosexual acts.

AFAO executive director Rob Lake, who is at the meeting as a Commonwealth HIV & AIDS Action Group delegate, praised Sharma’s words.

“It is encouraging to see the Commonwealth Law ministers beginning to discuss discrimination against transgender and gay and lesbian people and its effects,” Lake said.

“Thirty percent of the world’s population live in Commonwealth countries, yet 60 percent of people with HIV do.

“Law and HIV have always been connected. Justice and security is not just about gun. It is about living in a country and a Commonwealth that acknowledges and acts to enshrine our human rights — the right to health and to a life without discrimination and persecution.”

But while welcoming Sharma’s statement, Lake said it was disappointing that the topic was not on the agenda for the Law Ministers’ meeting.

“We look forward to seeing these words transformed into actions at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth in October,” Lake said.

Among the worst offenders in the Commonwealth when it comes to GLBT human rights are Pakistan, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi and Malaysia.

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