Africa Asia Middle East Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
PlusNews
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Wednesday 03 October 2007
 
Home 
Africa 
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Events 
Jobs 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Donors 
Contact PlusNews 
 
Print report
UGANDA: State homophobia putting gays at HIV risk - activists


Photo: www.saveuganda.co.nr
Demonstrators protest homosexuality in Kampala, Uganda, 17 August 2007.
NAIROBI, 24 August 2007 (PlusNews) - The Ugandan government's hostility towards the gay community leaves them out of health programmes, putting them at greater risk of HIV, the New York-based lobby group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned this week.

"In a climate where silence about sexuality is enforced by state action, the health of all Ugandans is at risk amid the HIV/AIDS pandemic," HRW said in a letter to President Yoweri Museveni on 23 August. "We urge you to ensure the full integration of issues of sexual orientation and gender identity into nationwide HIV prevention and care programmes."

Homosexual acts, or "carnal knowledge against the order of nature", carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment in Ugandan law. President Museveni's government supports this law, and he has repeatedly claimed that homosexuality "does not exist" in Uganda.

The HRW letter arrived after a week in which a gay rights group, Sexual Minorities Groups in Uganda (SMUG), agitated for their rights in the capital, Kampala, demanding the decriminalisation of homosexuality, while religious groups held a rally denouncing same-sex relationships.

SMUG held a press conference with the theme, "Let us live in peace", on 16 August, where it called for the same rights for gays as all Ugandan citizens enjoy. "To successfully stop HIV/AIDS, we must treat every person with the dignity and attention they deserve," said SMUG spokesman Laurence Misedah. Many press conference participants wore masks for fear of prosecution.

At the anti-gay rally on 17 August, government officials, cultural leaders and religious leaders from the Christian and Muslim faiths joined hands to condemn homosexuality.

"The rally had a double message: we have noticed that homosexual agents and activists are infiltrating Uganda, and this was a protest against them and a message to the world that we do not want homosexuals and homosexuality in Uganda," Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the rally's organisers, told IRIN/PlusNews. "Secondly, it was in support of our government and their laws against the practice of homosexuality."

Including gays in HIV programmes

"Homosexuals should absolutely not be included in Uganda's HIV/AIDS framework. It is a crime, and when you are trying to stamp out a crime you don't include it in your programmes," Ssempa said. "For instance, the solution to stopping HIV transmission through rape is not to provide the rapists with condoms, but to stop rape itself."

The Ugandan government makes no provision for men who have sex with men, or women who have sex with women, in its HIV programmes. "This is because homosexuality and lesbianism are criminal offences under Ugandan law," James Kigozi, spokesman for the Uganda AIDS Commission, told IRIN/PlusNews. "But we don't discriminate when they go to health centres. We do not ask their orientation, nor do we refuse them services."

However, staff at medical centres stigmatised gay people once they revealed their orientation, Dr Paul Ssemugoma, a local doctor, told the SMUG press conference.

According to Beatrice Were, an HIV-positive Ugandan AIDS activist, "Their exclusion from services is not direct, but due to the denial by culture, and public condemnation by politicians and religious leaders, the moral drive against them is reinforced."

She told IRIN/PlusNews that marginalisation was allowing HIV to spread widely in the gay community. "They seem to be mainly youth and mainly poor, as they have been rejected by their families and kicked out of school, so they lack skills to seek employment competitively, and we know how well HIV thrives amidst poverty."

Were said many people in the gay community were bisexual and having sex with the general population, so "their problem is a problem for all society."

A recent survey by a Kenya-based research organisation, The Steadman Group, found that more than 90 percent of Ugandans were against homosexuality, while only four percent were in favour of legalising it. Activists estimate that there are about 500,000 practising homosexuals in Uganda.

kr/he/kn


Theme(s): (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:


Submit your request
 More on Uganda
12/Sep/2007
UGANDA: Time to address love and sexuality among teens born with HIV
07/Sep/2007
UGANDA: Campaigning against cross-generational sex
24/Aug/2007
GLOBAL: US company sues American Red Cross over use of Red Cross emblem
22/Aug/2007
IRIN: Today's most popular IRIN articles
21/Aug/2007
UGANDA: High sexual violence places women at greater HIV risk
 More on HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)
03/Oct/2007
SOUTH AFRICA: Hospital project attempts to revive Johannesburg inner city
02/Oct/2007
ZIMBABWE: People living with HIV/AIDS use new ways to handle hard times
01/Oct/2007
ZIMBABWE: Bulawayo's water crisis cripples AIDS efforts
28/Sep/2007
GLOBAL: IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 354, 28 September 2007
28/Sep/2007
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE: Claims of putting the virus to sleep worry activists
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.