This is a letter sent by LebMASH president on Dec. 9 2014 to Dr. Bizri in response to his radio interview on World AIDS Day.
Hello Dr. Bizri,
I just heard the interview that you gave last week with Sawt Lebnan Radio station about HIV/AIDS.
I, with a group of other physicians, founded LebMASH (the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health) two years ago in Lebanon.
LebMASH’s mission is to advance the health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in Lebanon and the sexual health of all Lebanese people.
In our work we have collaborated with clinics like marsa and have been very concerned about the rise of HIV among young gay men. We are also concerned in general about poor access to care among LGBT people in Lebanon due to fear of discrimination or homophobia, both of which are unfortunately rampant among our health care providers.
It gives me so much hope to know that there are people like you and Dr. Nesrine Rizk who are approaching the issue of HIV/AIDS with such integrity and based on science.
I also couldn’t have agreed more with every word you said regarding the need to update our antiquated 534 penal code. Even though article 534 technically does not apply to homosexuality since it punishes any sexual intercourse that is against nature and homosexuality is not a disease and is not against nature. We all know that the police in Lebanon continue to harass and arrest men based on the suspicion of being gay.
Knowing how hard it is to change laws in Lebanon, we and other organizations have realized that a good alternative to the ultimate goal of abolishing article 534, would be to deactivate it by educating the public in general and the legal community specifically that this law is not relevant to homosexuality.
Religion and the conservative cultural environment continue to pose a significant challenge in Lebanon and it was very interesting what you said about religious leaders who might be sympathetic. This also gives us great hope especially that some people in Lebanon do have a tendency to become “religious” when the issue of homosexuality is brought up but somehow they don’t mind numerous other issues that are not allowed by religion such as stealing, drinking alcohol, and eating pork.
Thank you again for this great interview and for all the work that you have been doing to take care of people living with HIV/AIDS and to promote awareness and understating of this disease.
All the best,
Dr. Omar Fattal