Sunday, September 20, 2009

Timor Leste Red Cross exludes homosexuals from HIV-AIDS Reduction Program

ETLJB 19 September 2009 Before the undemocratically-formulated Constitution was adopted in East Timor in 2002, constitutional protection for homosexuals in East Timor was expunged from an early draft. The then Constituent Assembly (the prototype of the present National Parliament) voted to remove gay protections from the new nation's draft constitution.

Fifty-two of the Assembly's 88 members specifically voted to exclude "sexual orientation" from an antidiscrimination clause. Discrimination was banned based only on "color, race, gender, marital status, ethnic origin, economic or social status, beliefs or ideology, politics, religion, education, and mental or physical condition."

One member of the assembly, Joao Carrascalao, (who was the East Timor Transitional Administration's Minister for Infrastructure) called homosexuality "an illness" and "an anomaly" and said protecting gays would create "social chaos." Another member said the only homosexuals in East Timor are foreigners.

This is the grotesque and primitive social context in which HIV-AIDS prevention policies are supposed to operate in East Timor; a context in which the most basic rights of homosexual citizens are denied and in which homosexuals are publicly vilified by political leaders (some of whom were deeply engaged with the illegal Indonesian occupation and the universe of human rights violations perpetrated during the period from 1975 through to 1999).

This context is problematical not only for the civil rights of homosexuals in East Timor but also for HIV-AIDS prevention policies and it is reflected in a recent position vacant advertisement for an HIV-AIDS consultancy with the Red Cross.

In that advertisement, the Red Cross notes that it is one of the most active implementing organizations working in the National HIV/AIDS and STI Program, lead by the Ministry of Health. HIV/AIDS is emphasized in CVTL’s (Cruz Vermelha de Timo-Leste) Strategy 2006-2009 with the objective of increasing HIV/AIDS knowledge and its prevention in youth and Most at Risk Groups (MARGs). Since 2005 CVTL has been involved in HIV programs with MARG including transport workers, clients of sex workers and female sex workers.

The job advertisement continues: "CVTL are currently receiving a grant for their activities with MARGs, specifically clients of female sex workers and men with multiple partners. Funding is from the Ministry Of Health, and is part of the country’s Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) grant. This grant started in January 2008 and will continue until December 2011.

Not a single mention of outreach programs for homosexual men in East Timor! Homosexual men are the most "at risk" group for HIV-AIDS transmission!

The "results" that are expected to be achieved by the Red Cross HIV-AIDS program in East Timor are to continue its "successful implementation" of their grant to reduce the risk of STI and HIV/AIDS transmission among for clients of female sex workers and men with multiple partners, in four districts – Dili, Bobonaro Covalima and Oeccusse.

But how can any HIV-AIDS reduction policy claim to be such so long as it omits that part of the community that is most vulnerable to HIV-AIDS; namely, the gay community.

The Red Cross HIV-AIDS program in East Timor is also purposed to increase knowledge and practice of safer sex behavior in those limited target populations through outreach targeting reduction in the number of partners, mutual monogamy and/or using condoms correctly and consistently.

How can HIV-AIDS transmission be stopped by monogamy and the suppression of promiscuity? Monogamy is a myth. Promiscuity is the natural condition of the human being.

The policy failure here extends not only to this fatally-flawed HIV-AIDS reduction program from the East Timor Ministry of Health and the Red Cross but also to a lack of advocacy by the many so-called human rights groups in East Timor; a lack of advocacy for the enactment of laws that protect the rights of homosexual men and women and a vacuum in the agitation for laws that criminalise the vilification of homosexuals and homosexuality and which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The obscurantist approach to HIV-AIDS and homosexuality in East Timor is heavily influenced by the antidemocratic and antihuman polices of the Catholic Church and the propagation of religious doctrines rather than the rational objectives of secular public health policies.

What a despicable program! ETLJB condemns the Red Cross and the Government of East Timor for the exclusion of the gay community from its supposed HIV-AIDS reduction policies. This exclusion is tantamount to an endorsement of homophobia and it colludes in the vilification of homosexuals in East Timor and the exposure of homosexual citizens to hate crimes.

But worst of all, it constitutes a guranteed failure of the policy and the Red Cross program. The central message of the HIV-AIDS programs must prioritise - not moral lectures on sexuality - but the primacy of the deployment of condoms, proper public information campaigns and the protection of HIV-AIDS-vulnerable population's civil rights as the most effective holistic strategy for the reduction of HIV-AIDS transmission. And the primary "target populations" must include the gay community. But this appalling program does neither of these things!

The Center for HIV Law and Policy concludes that it is homophobia that is a significant barrier to HIV diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and a critical public health issue.

Homophobia and heterosexism interfere with appropriate health care access and services for homosexuals, feed support for counterproductive abstinence-until-marriage programming, fuel antigay social policies and other violence, and otherwise marginalize gay people of all ages.

Studies consistently demonstrate that homophobia contributes to the spread of HIV and that internalized homophobia increases HIV risk.

The Red Cross program should, at the very least, be providing access to information on issues related to homophobia and HIV, including discrimination, stigma, sexuality education, and access to care. Instead, it violates the required public health objectives by entirely omitting homosexuality from the program parameters.

A recent study found that homophobia creates a significant health hazard and directly undermines important public health initiatives. One impact of homophobia is that many men who have sex with men, particularly young men, do not disclose their sexual orientation in order to avoid social isolation, discrimination, abuse, and violence. Young gay and bisexual men may be at higher risk for HIV infection as a consequence of low self-esteem, depression, and lack of peer support and related services available to those who are more open about their sexual orientation and identity.

But only the most courageous homosexuals in East Timor will stand up and demand that the state protect their legitimate interests. (see further HIV/STD Risks in Young Men Who Have Sex with Men Who Do Not Disclose Their Sexual Orientation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Warren L. Wright BA LLB
Sydney 19 September 2009


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Homosexuality in East Timor

ETLJB 25 April 2009 SYDNEY - The rights of the homosexual citizens of East Timor have proven to be a fertile ground for virulent anti-gay vilification by some of East Timor's political leaders. Discussion of the issue in the public domain has also provided an opportunity for the persecution of gay men and women in East Timor through the hysterical anti-human and anti-Christian condemnations of the Roman Catholic Church.

There is a significant gay dimension to East Timorese society. But a proposed constitutional guarantee of the rights of homosexuals in East Timor was, under pressure from the Church and with the approval of homophobic members of East Timor's national parliament, excised from an early draft of the Constitution leaving the gay community susceptible to marginalisation, discrimination and hate-motivated violence. It was on that occasion that a prominent politician denied that there were any gay people in East Timor and declared homosexuality a disease.

The Church's influence in East Timor has actually contributed to the promotion of homosexuality, principally among East Timorese men. Strict compliance with bans on pre-marital sex and an oppressive social regime that seeks to control Timorese women's sexuality in East Timor have most certainly restricted the opportunities for young East Timorese men. But primal human compulsions, in the end, so to speak, find a way of being expressed.

The protection of the rights of gay people in East Timor should not be a matter left outside the mainstream concerns of the justice system. And yet not a single cent of the millions upon millions of dollars of donor money has been dedicated to this.

Gay civil rights movements in advanced secular democracies agitated and achieved unprecedented legal recognition of equality before the law and impartial access to the protections afforded by the law to straight citizens. These achievements did not come about without a long and injurious campaign to refute the prejudices of the conservative Church and to drag the State to entrench secular anti-discrimination and anti-vilification laws and to delete a wide range of laws and policies that discriminated against homosexual people.

If East Timor is to be credibly received as a state based on the rule of law and international laws and standards as its Constitution mandates, both clear policies and legislation must be presented by the Government to the Parliament for enactment to ensure the protection of equal rights to all citizens.

Such efforts will also create a suitable legal and social environment for managing HIV-AIDS infections in East Timor. Unfortunately, as the whole world knows, the spiritually-unstable leaders of the Roman Catholic Church continue to ban the use of condoms as a protective measure to avoid infection. In East Timor, this immoral doctrine will result in the avoidable deaths of men and women.

Intrusions of religious doctrines into the formulation of social policies and legislation in East Timor is a grave error - morally, jurisprudentially and constitutionally


Lus Clarita - The First Gay Club in Dili

Not many people knew about it. But LuS Clarita a new club for gays just opened in Dili. The Club is own and run by 3 Timorese (2 girls 1 boy)

On Saturdays, the club is open for the Gays, but you still see many straight and gay curious, both local and international there.

The club located on a roof top with nice view (see picture on the lft).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Spot for Gay Cruizing in Dili

Where do you think Timorese gay guys meet for a 'quicky'?
Apparently the place is GMT building (the Gymnasium) behind the universiy.

Inside the compound, there are plenty dark empty toilets rooms where people use for their quick business. It is like a Sauna, except the romms are dirty and smelly.

The best time to go there is around 3-5 am. From 4 am in the morning, there are many young guys 'Jogging' around. If they check you out or stop when they see, means they are into the business.

Have a try and enjoy, but carefull with the hustleres!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene

By The Chaser
Gay scientists today released a study which, they claim, at last identifies the "Christian Gene".
The controversial research may end the long running debate about the cause of Christianity.
"Our research suggests that Christians may not actually be able to help themselves," said one scientist. The theory casts doubt on the traditional belief that Christianity can be blamed on a child's upbringing.

The parents of one Christian have welcomed the news with relief. "We always worried that if we'd done something different our child would not have ended up a Christian."
But converting the research into a commercial cure may take years. The wait leaves many families frustrated. "We have sent our children to camps to cure them, but no matter how many times we play them Pet Shop Boys they just come back talking about Jesus," said one gay parent.

Part of the delay is because the scientists need approval from ethics boards to further their study. "Obviously there are those who'll say genetic modification is just playing God," said one researcher, "but now we can at least cure them of this argument."

TL Condemns Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity with 65 other States

UN: General Assembly Statement Affirms Rights for All

(New York, December 18, 2008) – In a powerful victory for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 66 nations at the UN General Assembly today supported a groundbreaking statement confirming that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the first time that a statement condemning rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has been presented in the General Assembly.

The statement drew unprecedented support from five continents, including six African nations. Argentina read the statement before the General Assembly. A cross-regional group of states coordinated the drafting of the statement, also including Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway.

The 66 countries reaffirmed “the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” They stated they are “deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” and said that “violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The statement condemned killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, and “deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.” The participating countries urged all nations to “promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” and to end all criminal penalties against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to calculations by ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association) and other organizations, more than six dozen countries still have laws against consensual sex between adults of the same sex. The majority of these laws were left behind by colonial rulers ( ). The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a core UN treaty, held in a historic 1994 decision that such laws are rights violations – and that human rights law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity happen regularly around the world. For example:

1. In the United States, Amnesty International has documented serious patterns of police abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, including incidents amounting to torture and ill-treatment. The United States refused to sign the General Assembly statement.

2. In Egypt, Human Rights Watch documented a massive crackdown on men suspected of homosexual conduct between 2001-2004, in which hundreds or thousands of men were arrested and tortured. Egypt actively opposed the General Assembly statement.

3. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has documented how, in many African countries, sodomy laws and prejudice deny rights protections to Africans engaged in same-sex practices amid the HIV/AIDS pandemic – and can actually criminalize outreach to affected groups.

The signatories overcame intense opposition from a group of governments that regularly try to block UN attention to violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Only 60 states signed an alternative text promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. While affirming the “principles of non-discrimination and equality,” they claimed that universal human rights did not include “the attempt to focus on the rights of certain persons.”

At first, the Holy See had voiced strong opposition to the General Assembly statement. Its opposition sparked severe criticism by human rights defenders worldwide. In a significant reversal, however, the Holy See indicated to the General Assembly today that it called for repeal of criminal penalties for homosexual conduct.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the General Assembly statement reaffirms the reach and breadth of UDHR principles. The statement is non-binding, but restates what UN human rights bodies have repeatedly said: that no one should face rights violations because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Navanetham Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, strongly supported the statement. In a videotaped message, she cited South Africa’s 1996 decision to protect sexual orientation in its Constitution. She pointed to the “task and challenge to move beyond a debate on whether all human beings have rights,” to “secure the climate for implementation.”

Since the Human Rights Committee’s landmark decision in 1994, United Nations experts have repeatedly acted against abuses that target lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, including killings, torture, rape, violence, disappearances, and discrimination in many areas of life. UN treaty bodies have called on states to end discrimination in law and policy.

Other international bodies have also opposed violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including the Council of Europe and the European Union. In 2008, all 34 member countries of the Organization of American States unanimously approved a declaration affirming that human rights protections extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Earlier in the day, the General Assembly also adopted a resolution condemning extrajudicial executions, which contained a reference opposing killings based on sexual orientation. Uganda moved to delete that reference, but the General Assembly rejected this by 78-60.

The signatories to the General Assembly statement are:Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on LGBT rights, please visit:

East Timor Assembly Rejects Gay Protections

Gay Today

January 2, 2002

by Rex Wockner, International News Report
The new Constituent Assembly of East Timor voted to remove gay protections from the new nation's draft constitution December 13, PortugalGay.PT reported.

Fifty-two of the legislature's 88 members specifically voted to exclude "sexual orientation" from an antidiscrimination clause. Discrimination will be banned based on "color, race, gender, marital status, ethnic origin, economic or social status, beliefs or ideology, politics, religion, education, and mental or physical condition."

One member of the assembly, João Carrascalão, called homosexuality "an illness" and "an anomaly" and said protecting gays would create "social chaos." Another member said the only homosexuals in East Timor are foreigners.

The people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. In response, according to, "Indonesian-trained militia in the country were unleashed across the country massacring civilians, cutting power and water lines, and burning 85 percent of the buildings in the country, including virtually all schools and nearly all businesses."

The nation is presently under UN protection, governed by a UN Transitional Authority. Power will be handed over on May 20, 2002. Members of the Constituent Assembly were elected by voters this past August.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gay Place in Dili for Cruising

You can go to the following places, but carefull with the hustlers:

1. Beach front, Palacio do Governo (Government Palace)
2. In front of National University (UNTL)
3. Park in frong of Hotel Dili and World Bank Office
4. Beach front, Hotel Turismo
5. Dili Trade Centre during opening hours
6. Amigos Club on Fridays and Saturdays
7. Exotica, on Friday
8. Atlantico on Saturdays
9. Casa Minha on Fridays
10. Motion on Thursdays

If you are lucky you can pick up some muscle GNR too.

Down in Dili East Timor - by Martin Foreman (August 2004

Okay, I admit defeat. There is no way I can fill a column on gay life in this town. It's not there isn't any. It's just that there's so little of it. A leading global expert on HIV/AIDS (me) estimates that in the East Timorese capital, which has about 120,000 inhabitants, about 1,500 - 3,000 men have sex with men. Perhaps 100 of these is willing to admit it or is so camp that he doesn't even need to open his mouth, and on any one night, about 15 are going to put on their best clothes and head into for the town's night spots. Which means that gay life here isn't exactly vibrant.

There are, apparently, four places where gay men can regularly be found mingling in the crowd. There's Poy Cholor, near the oil terminal (which consists of one pier and a single pipeline), Sagres and Another Place whose name I've forgotten. Yes, I know that's only three, and I didn't visit any of them. But I did go to the fourth: the Dili Trade Centre, a first-floor (second-floor for the USAmericans among you) bar where the highlight of the week is the band that performs there on a Friday night (at least until the Bishop living nearby telephones to complain that he can't sleep).

I spent two weeks in Dili in a hotel next to the British Embassy, which comprises a bungalow with just enough room for a retired colonel and his gin-and-tonic. In the tiny garden, there's a satellite dish bigger than anyone else's in Dili, presumably so that the colonel and his moustache can catch reruns of Nigella Lawson, Two Fat Ladies or Keith Floyd, depending on his culinary and sexual predilictions. The latter may not be not be up to much, considering that the flagpole from which the ambassadorial Union Jack hangs limply is a very modest erection compared to the thick and taller Japanese rod next door.

Okay, let's cut the weak humour and get down to basics. East Timor is Asia's newest and probably poorest country. It's just south of the Equator, has the usual requisite tropical landscape of palm trees, mountains and sometimes sandy beaches. It's less humid than Bangkok, which means I was less inclined to sweat - a bonus to me and those around me. It's also very expensive. A night in the Esplanada hotel, which is pleasant enough but lacks basic facilities such as clean towels and a telephone in the room, sets you, or the company that sponsors you, back US$80 (£44) or more a night, while a decent brunch in the hotel restaurant, completely with mimosa, will another $22 (£13). The combination of high prices and low facilities goes a long way to explaining the lack of tourists.

Anyway, East Timor is half of an island that for several hundred years was shared by the Dutch and the Portuguese. In 1949 the Dutch left their half and West Timor was incorporated into the newly-independent Indonesia. The Portuguese hung on to their half until 1975, a year after a coup d'état in Lisbon unseated one of Europe's longest-running dictatorships. As soon as it came into power, the new, left-wing, government in Lisbon issued a statement that that they were abandoning their colonies and helpfullly listed their remaining possessions around the globe.

Except that they forgot to mention East Timor. Not surprising, really; the Portuguese were not one of the world's better colonisers - say what you like about the Brits, in our Empire we tended to erect substantial buildings and educate at least a few natives so that when we pulled out we left functioning bureaucracies and at least some infrastructure. The East Timorese were left with nothing but poverty. Shortly after the Portuguese headed for home, the Indonesians decided to claim ET as theirs. They weren't lured here by the cinnamon or coffee or sandalwood as much as their reluctance to share a border with a country whose government leaned far to the left. Also, the fact that it was believed there were vast oil deposits on East Timor's southern shores probably had something to do with it.

There may only be 800,000 of them, compared to around 200 million Indonesians, but the East Timorese, who are of Melanesian stock (think Australian aborogine), Tetum speakers and Roman Catholic, unlike their Indonesian-speaking, south-east Asian Muslim rulers, resisted the occupation. There followed 24 years of guerrillla fighting, torture, rape and murder common in such situations. The guerillas' PR was effective, the world began to pay attention and support for their cause grew; in 1999 Indonesia quit and the United Nations and Australians moved in, the former to keep the peace, the latter to distribute aid and run bars.

Five years later, the UN is on its way out, but the Australians have dug themselves in. There are also quite a few Portuguese and Brazilians since the new government decided that Portuguese would be one of the country's official languages (the other is Tetum). That is despite the fact that very few Timorese under 30 years old speak Portuguese. English is used with most foreigners, while Timorese who come from different ends of the island and whose dialects of Tetum are mutually unintelligible use the language of their most recent oppressor - Indonesian. (Unaware of this linguistic confusion when I signed the contract to work in East Timor, I looked forward to chatting away in the language I first learnt a generation ago in Rio. I watched City of God on DVD and started mumbling to myself phrases like quando era a última vez que você usou camisinha? - when was the last time you used a condom? - only to discover on my arrival in Dili that almost nobody understood me.)Back to the Australians. They're so involved in the country that they've decided to take over the country's oilfields. Well, strictly speaking, they negotiated a treaty revising maritime boundaries with Indonesia at a point in the mid-1990s when it was clear that Jakarta was on a losing wicket, giving them (the Australians) the bulk of the oil. Even though the treaty was signed by an illegally occupying force, Canberra insists that East Timor honour the agreement. The ETs (I'm sorry - I couldn't resist that one) are hopping mad, but there's nothing you can do when your total population is about the size of a couple of Sydney's suburbs put together and your navy probably has no more than one battered ferry. [In late August 2004, an agreement was reached with Australia that granted ET an extra US$2.1 billion of the $21 billion estimated total value of the oil.]

But it's not the Australians that preoccupy the ordinary Timorese as much as the United Nations. Fewer UN troops and support staff means fewer US dollars - also the ET national currency - to spread around. It's a disturbing prospect. After all, one high-ranking blue beret can easily support a maid, a driver and a couple of security guards; when he (occasionally she) leaves that's four ETs out of work. Restaurants are closing all over town. Drivers of battered taxis asked me anxiously which unit I was from and when I would leave. I reassured them that I was not from the UN, then disappointed them by saying I was only there for a fortnight.

Back at gay life... There may not be much of it, but it's surprisingly open. On my first visit to the Dili Trade Centre I arrived about 10.30 and knocked back a couple of beers while watching expats from their late twenties to early forties, male and female, determinedly drink and dance to the band's surprisingly good reggae. This was, I had been told, the centre of gay nightlife but apart from myself, I could spot no friend of Dorothy. However, by midnight the atmosphere had begun to change. A group of fashionably dressed young men entered; for the next hour I chatted with them and watched as the white-skinned couples left and the darker Timorese arrived. By one o'clock it was clear that the Dili Trade Centre on a Friday night was the place to find single men of every nationality, ethnicity and sexual orientation; it was also the place for single women in unnaturally tight clothing, although they did not seem to be doing much business. And don't forget the single feto, a very masculine figure in a blouse and skirt. One of my new companions said this was the best place for gay people to come. I asked why. Because it's less violent than the others, he said. In the other bars there are UN troops running amok with Kalashnikovs? I wondered. No, he said, just the locals with knives and fists. Okay, I thought to myself, I can live without that.

I was in Dili to help set up an HIV prevention programme for men who have sex with men and later that week I brought together half a dozen of the locals to help me understand the situation better. I originally scheduled the meeting for 5.30pm but was told that most of those I invited would have to go to university classes at 6. I brought the time forward to 4pm and waited alone at the allocated spot - the bar of my hotel - until 4.35, when the first person strolled in. By five o'clock four men had arrived. Another three came in the next hour. With beer and snacks, six o'clock came and went and none of them rushed away. Ah well, I reflected, the lack of punctuality common to the hotter climates of the world was clearly alive and well on the borders of the Pacific.

Ages ranged from a languid 23 with dark blonded hair to the 41 year-old slightly tense radio personality whose face now adorns the country's first leaflets for gay men. Most were either unemployed or vague about work and were eager - or said they were eager; no-one in East Timor seems to be a ball of energy - to work together improve the lot of their fellow gay men. I had a list of things to talk about and conversation was wide-ranging. Over a coupe of hours I learnt such disparate facts as the Tetum word for fuck (I've already forgotten it - not much use for it here in Bangkok) to that some members of parliament had considered legislation outlawing discrimination based on orientation. What do you do if you want sex, I asked one. Well, he said, first he'd phone a friend, and if one wasn't free, he'd pay a taxi-driver, and if that didn't work out he'd go to a bar like the Dili Trade Centre, and if that didn't work out (and watching the dynamics of the DTC I suspected it seldom did), he'd cruise the section of street and park in front of the Government Palace. I thought of the apparently limitless choice of partners in the bars and saunas and internet chat rooms of London and Bangkok. There were many forms of poverty I realised, not just financial. Of course my dear elderly mother would opine that sex should only be practised within marriage or a loving committed relationship irrespective of the gender of the participants. In Dili, that sounds like a serious option.

We talked more, but the story was basically the same - a few men who were more or less open about their sexuality and a much greater number of "hidden" men, who took what chances were offered. Very little knowledge about HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and safer sex. Quite a challenge for the next stage of the project.

And that was the gay scene. I thought about seeing more of the island, but I had a lot of work to do and I never got out of Dili; perhaps next time. I hear that there are some beautiful mountains and beaches and diving in East Timor. The fact that the roads are dirt-tracks, there are few hotels outside Dili (and even fewer with en suite bathrooms) and restaurants are few and far between both attracts and puts me off. Perhaps I should go; ten years from now, who knows what the country will be like.