The Anti-Homosexuality Act and HIV/AIDS in Uganda

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The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act was first proposed in October 2009, with provisions that convicted offenders would face either the death penalty or life imprisonment, as well as fines and/or imprisonment for LGBT rights activists and health workers providing services for LGBT people living with HIV/AIDS. It was passed by the Ugandan Parliament in December 2013 with the death penalty provision dropped due to international opposition, signed into law by the President in February 2014, and finally ruled invalid by the Constitutional Court in August 2014. The impact of the bill on efforts to control and prevent HIV transmission in Uganda has not been measured but could be a significant setback. Problematically, this subpopulation that is already at high risk of contracting HIV would be further discouraged from seeking HIV testing and treatment.

As physicians, we have a strong objection to the aforementioned law. The incidence of HIV in Uganda has increased in recent years. The main driver of new HIV infections are so-called Most At-Risk Populations, which include Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), Commercial Sex Workers and Injection Drug Users. However, due to the persecution of LGBTs, Uganda does not have any official data on LGBTs and activities supporting LGBTs are now restricted. Anti-LGBT laws move LGBTs underground and hamper global and regional efforts to control HIV/AIDS. Similar legislations in Senegal resulted in the suspension of many HIV prevention programs targeting MSM. If there is any hope of curtailing the negative impact of this legislation on HIV/AIDS among LGBTs, international donors must continue to apply pressure on the Ugandan government to repeal the law and allow NGOs that offer HIV prevention services to freely operate. These efforts must also be paired with improvements in societal attitudes towards LGBTs.

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4 Responses to “The Anti-Homosexuality Act and HIV/AIDS in Uganda”

  1. rachaellinder10 Says:

    The current state of LGBT rights in Uganda is not only upsetting, but is contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS. I think it is very difficult in these situations for international donors to attack a recipient government’s policy or restrict aid and expect to have compliance. It is difficult to negotiate on such contentious issues without offending the recipient government. The international community has a moral obligation to condemn human rights abuses such as the laws in Uganda, but must do so without alienating the Ugandan government. Even if the Ugandan government were to change their LGBT policies, it is difficult to determine how this would play out in reality, as harassment and violence against LGBT Ugandans would likely still continue. Still, something has to be done. I think that putting some restrictions on aid may be useful, but also holding regular in-country meetings between the donors and the receiving country’s government could be a useful first step. Continual re-evaluation of aid funding and human rights progress within the country is necessary to influence any type of sustainable change.

  2. alinks1323 Says:

    I completely agree with your objection to this law, and its importance to addressing HIV/AIDS in LGBT populations. I also really like your statement regarding pairing repealing the law with improvements in societal attitudes towards LGBT individuals. I think the Anti-Homosexuality Act demonstrates how social perceptions and law or policy can influence each other, and interact with the health of populations like LGBT. A comparative point here in the US regards the establishment of same-sex rights: Supreme Court written opinions deciding these laws (such as sodomy laws) are filled with statements of the social perception (of the deciding judges) of the morality (or immorality) of same-sex intimacy. This is obviously a far less extreme example than what we see in Uganda, but I bring it up because I agree that when correcting these types of legal injustices, it is important to consider not merely the laws or policies themselves, but also the manner in which societal attitudes contribute to them.

  3. Sara G. Says:

    This Anti-Homosexual act is a blow to LGBT related health initiatives in Uganda. Not only does it stigmatize LGBT for their orientation, it further stigmatizes LGBT who are living with HIV/AIDS. From research for my capstone project which is examining MSM in Burkina Faso and STI testing, stigmaitization leads to less MSM seeking treatment or MSM resources. Unlike other countries like Senegal where sodomy is illegal, homosexuality is technically illegal but is not well enforced, this law is relentlessly enforced in Uganda and was pushed forward by missionaries against homosexuality. They were able to do this because they provide aid and the parliament did not want to refuse aid to their country.

    A wonderful film detailing this controversy called “Call Me Kuchu” shows the process of this bill and follows various homosexuals around Uganda and the tabloid culture that publicly outs LGBT individuals and fuels this controversy.

    http://callmekuchu.com/

    The lack of social support in Uganda is appalling and is a detriment to these people getting the health care they need and deserve simply because they have a different sexual orientation.

  4. broland3 Says:

    As a member and advocate of the LGBT community I was following this story back in 2009 when it was first developing. As many have pointed out, it’s incredibly upsetting from both a health perspective as well as a moral one. People may have religious or personal objections to homosexuality but it becomes a human rights issue when those beliefs create laws intended to harm an entire group of people. Unfortunately, this law is a double-whammy as it prevents a stigmatized group from seeking appropriate healthcare for both prevention and treatment. While I agree with objecting the law, I believe we need to get at the root of the problem. This law in Uganda, and many other places around the world, was heavily influenced by a few members of a very conservative religious group here in the United States. I believe we need to focus on finding ways to peacefully prevent these people from spreading such hatred while ambassadors do damage control in these countries to prevent bloodshed from both violence and disease.

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