The invisible citizens’ revolution

Executive summary

Background

In Ecuador, stigma and discrimination pose many barriers for the medical, social and political inclusion of LGBT people living with HIV. To understand how this hidden population faces its adversity, this research looked into how Ecuadorian LGBT people challenge the way they are treated and perceived by health care professionals, politicians and the larger society. Wondering if their resistance effectively diminishes stigmatisation and discrimination, and if it transforms them into more fully included citizens, Mandy Geisse studied the dimensions of the nature of the resistance of LGBT people living with HIV, the space where this resistance takes place and the role NGOs play in this.

Methods

Five in-depth interviews and fifteen life history interviews were held with LGBT people living with HIV, within the age range of 22-55 years. Additional methods used were participant observation among LGBT people as well as analysis of documents of the Ecuadorian LGBT people rights organisation Equidad.

Results

Social discrimination and fear of judgment are the main barriers for HIV testing and care as well as collective resistance. Consequently, the majority of LGBT people living with HIV prefer to not disclose their sexual orientation and HIV status. This makes it difficult to create a sense of community, leading to mostly individual resistance, hence making it difficult for LGBT people rights organisations to assist in this population’s rights struggle. The only place LGBT people put up a form of resistance seems to be the doctor’s office, as it creates most direct opportunities for confrontation with discriminatory behaviour without it being publically exposed.

Conclusions

For LGBT people who are living with HIV to step out of the shadow, pioneers from the community are needed to publicly discuss LGBT people issues. Geisse recommends LGBT people rights organisations to involve LGBT people more in political activities as well as publicly outing their activities to attract more people and create a dialogue with the larger public.