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March 25, 2010

Uzbek Psychologist Sentenced to 7 Years for HIV Prevention Work

The ruling dictatorship in Uzbekistan sentenced Maksim Popov, a 28-year-old psychologist and AIDS activist, to seven years in prison for allegedly promoting homosexuality and, in turn, corrupting minors, through his HIV prevention work in the capital of Tashkent, Gay City News reports. Homosexuality in the Central Asian country is punishable by up to three years in prison.

According to the article, Popov founded Iziz, an Uzbek AIDS organization made up of young medical professionals and activists jointly funded by UNICEF, the U.K. Department for International Development, Population Services International and other groups.

Popov wrote a brochure—paid for by the Global AIDS Fund—called “HIV and AIDS Today,” which discussed same-sex relations and condom use in detail, both of which are taboo topics in the predominantly Muslim country.

According to a copy of the verdict obtained by eurasia.net, Popov was also convicted of distributing a UNAIDS publication called “HIV and Men Who Have Sex With Men in Asia and the Pacific.” The verdict stated, “The content of this book, according to experts, is categorically mismatched with the mentality, moral foundations of society, religion, customs and traditions of the people of Uzbekistan.”

Gay City News reported that Popov was arrested, tried and imprisoned last year, but the news did not begin reaching the West until February 24 because of Uzbekistan’s tight control of information. Iziz has reportedly shut down since his arrest.

Advocates have set up a Facebook page called “Amnesty for Maksim Popov,” which calls for his release.

“The climate in Uzbekistan makes it impossible for people within the country to speak out,” the page reads. “Those of us who have worked with Maksim Popov know him to be a witty, humble, curious, enthusiastic and effective educator and psychologist. We urge the international donors who supported him to break the silence on HIV, as well as all those who care about effective HIV prevention education to speak out for his release.”

Search: HIV/AIDS, activist, Global AIDS Fund, Central Asia, MSM, UNAIDS, Maksim Popov, Uzbekistan, Facebook


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