"Stop Homophobia," a graffiti reads in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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Beirut has often been heralded as a progressive bastion for the region's LGBTQ community, but systemic discrimination and societal homophobia has fostered rampant mental health issues and an upward trend of HIV-risk behavior within the community.Recent medical advances have allowed individuals infected with HIV to live longer and healthier lives; prior to these developments, an HIV infection effectively amounted to a death sentence.Daniel also expressed fear about contracting HIV in Lebanon.Daniel recounts a relationship with a partner of several months who had pressured him to have sex without the use of condoms. After the relationship ended, Daniel says he later found that his partner had lied about his HIV test results.However, when accounting for transgender individuals and people who identify as heterosexual but engage in homosexual acts, the percentage is likely higher.Accordingly, the study has focused on Beirut's MSM community rather than the gay community. Despite spikes in HIV infections among the MSM community, Mokhbat says the large majority continue to live normal daily lives.Mohkbar says he is hopeful that risky sexual behavior will dissipate in the coming decades as the greater Beirut area grows more accepting of its LGBTQ community.
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