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Desmond Tutu (pictured) has called for the decriminalization of homosexuality to better help combat the spread of HIV in the gay community, The BBC reports.

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He argued that anti-homosexuality laws are as wrong as apartheid laws were.

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“Never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are,” Tutu said. “When you live the life you were meant to live, in freedom and dignity.”

His remarks, published in the UK publication, “The Lancet Journal,” were well-received by HIV campaigners. A team of researchers, led by Prof Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a comprehensive report in The Lancet concerning the increasing spread of HIV between men who have sex with other men.

The problem of ascertaining the spread of HIV within the gay community is especially problematic in Africa and the Middle East where being an openly gay can lead to death.

Researchers said in “The Lancet” that this reality has hurt efforts to fight the virus:

“In too many settings in 2012, MSM or (man on man sex) still do not have access to the most basic of HIV services and technologies such as affordable and accessible condoms, appropriate lubricants and safe HIV testing and counselling,” they said.

“The struggle for equity in HIV services is likely to be inseparably linked to the struggle for sexual minority rights—and hence to be both a human rights struggle, and in many countries, a civil rights one.”

The paper, published on the eve of the international Aids 2012 conference, adds that by the end of 2011, only 87 countries had reported prevalence of HIV in MSM.

Decriminalizing homosexuality, the researchers argued, would allow healthcare professionals to help educate those most at risk of spreading HIV without fear of being “outed” or persecuted.

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