Activists Demand PreP, Intersex Inclusion at LGBTI World Conference

The 28th ILGA World Conference just took place in Bangkok, Thailand. The gathering of more than 800 participants presented an opportunity for activists around the world to come together, learn and strategize about international LGBTI rights. We attended and listened closely to the panels on intersexuality and PreP in Thailand — we’ve shared some of the discussion below.

But first, for those who don’t know, the ILGA is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a world federation of national and local organizations dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people. ILGA is an umbrella organization of more than 1,100 member organizations from six different world-regions including the Pan Africa ILGA, ILGA-Asia, ILGA-Europe, ILGA-LAC (which includes Latin America and the Caribbean), ILGA North-America and ILGA-Oceania (which incorporates Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia and Pacific Islands).

People travel to the ILGA World Conference from all over —including China, Kenya, Chile, New Zealand, and the United States — for day-long, pre-conference meetings that allow attendees to concentrate on particular topics. Together, they for explore the issues more in-depth, build skills and develop strategies. This year’s pre-conference topics included an interfaith discussion, LGBTI education, health issues, engaging with the United Nations and separate discussions for bisexual, intersex, trans and women’s issues.

Intersexual issues activists have pushed to increase visibility of the intersex experience and to include “I” in the LGBTQI acronym. Though there’s still heated debate about how to define intersexuality — whether as a medical condition or as a socio-cultural identity not entirely based on physical features — there’s strong movement to prioritize the rights of intersex individuals as important ones for our community. An estimated 125,800,000 people are intersex; that’s roughly the combined population of the world’s five most populous cities, so this is a large group we’re talking about.

In addition to the pre-conference meetings, APCOM (the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health) and Youth Voice Count (a Thai organization of  men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women) organized a session on PrEP entitled, “PrePing the Young Gay Dude,” billed as an honest discussion on PrEP and its social implications. The panel included PrEP users from Thailand and the Philippines, as well as advocates from Pakistan and Australia.

The session provided a robust conversation about what PrEP means for gay male sexuality, how it can impact our peace of mind and what changes it will have on our community and relationships. The key challenges around PrEP continue to be lack of knowledge, stigma and access. “Having a right to something doesn’t mean government is going to take it up,” said panelist Gareth Durrant, calling for increased mobilization to improve access (arguably one of the biggest medical human rights issues of our time).

The evolution of HIV prevention and its impact on stigma and sexuality also formed a key part of the conversation. Panelist Jonas Bagas said, “We should stop equating safe-sex to condom use alone.” Activists agreed that PrEP provides an important tool to the LGBTQI community and that we need ongoing organization and mobilization, particularly in countries where gay/bi men face persecution and harassment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this story originally included an image of intersex activist Pidge Pagonis that was used without their permission. We have replaced the image and apologized to Pidge.)