Today, on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued a position statement condemning so-called “conversion therapy,” which falsely purports to “cure” gays and lesbians by turning them straight. In it, the organization says that sexual orientation change efforts “lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.”

In the statement, which can be read in its entirety here, PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago not only blasts “ex-gay” therapy, she also calls for those who practice it to be punished by their governments:

Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure. There is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation. Practices known as “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” represent “a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people. . . These practices are unjustifiable and should be denounced and subject to sanctions and penalties under national legislation. These supposed conversion therapies constitute a violation of the ethical principles of health care and violate human rights that are protected by international and regional agreements.

The PAHO statement also notes that the scientific consensus is that homosexuality is a naturally occurring variation in human sexuality, not a pathological condition. It also makes a set of specific recommendations for “governments, academic institutions, professional associations, the media, and civil society” to address the problem of “ex-gay” programs, especially those that exploit vulnerable youth:

  • “Conversion” or “reparative” therapies and the clinics offering them should be denounced and subject to adequate sanctions.
  • Public institutions responsible for training health professionals should include courses on human sexuality and sexual health in their curricula, with a focus on respect for diversity and the elimination of attitudes of pathologization, rejection, and hate toward non-heterosexual persons.
  • Professional associations should disseminate documents and resolutions by national and international institutions and agencies that call for the de-psychopathologization of sexual diversity and the prevention of interventions aimed at changing sexual orientation.
  • In the media, homophobia in any of its manifestations and expressed by any person should be exposed as a public health problem and a threat to human dignity and human rights.
  • Civil society organizations can develop mechanisms of civil vigilance to detect violations of the human rights of non-heterosexual persons and report them to the relevant authorities. They can also help to identify and report people and institutions involved in the administration of “reparative” or “conversion therapies.”

PAHO is the oldest public health organization in the world and the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization. It works throughout the Western Hemisphere to improve health and living standards for the people of North, Central, and South America.

With today’s historic position statement, it’s clear that the Pan American Health Organization agrees with Truth Wins Out: the time has come to officially ban the destructive, unethical, scientifically unsound practice of reparative therapy and end this scourge once and for all.