Nearly 1,500 physicians, scientists, and other global health leaders from the U.S. and around the world today called on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to stop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before his country’s Parliament.
In a petition that drew signatures from clinicians, professors, researchers and students at leading US and international institutions, these experts said the Ugandan legislation would violate human rights and undermine public health, posing a particular threat to Uganda’s successful HIV/AIDS programs.
The bill would impose life imprisonment, or even death, for same-gender consensual sex acts and threatens imprisonment of individuals who do not report suspected homosexual acts to the police. The proposed law has sparked international condemnation, and there is growing pressure from world leaders on President Museveni to kill the bill.
HIV experts are very concerned the legislation would deter an already vulnerable at-risk population from seeking HIV services out of fear that it could land them on death row, as well as intimidating the health care workers who serve these populations.
“This legislation will violate Ugandans’ human rights and will impede successful efforts in HIV prevention by promoting misinformation suggesting that HIV transmission in Uganda is primarily due to male homosexual behavior. It will also create a chilling effect on patients’ willingness to seek HIV testing and prevention services and jeopardizes the fragile gains Uganda has made in combating the AIDS epidemic,” Kenneth Mayer, MD, co-chair of the Center for Global Health Policy’s Scientific Advisory Committee and professor at Brown University, where he directs the AIDS program, said in this news release highlighting the petition.
“This proposal would needlessly undermine public health in Uganda by further stigmatizing people with HIV or at risk of infection and by severely compromising the patient-health provider relationship,” said Michael Saag, MD, chairman of the HIV Medicine Association’s board and a chief of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. (HIVMA and the Global Center helped spearhead the petition effort.)
Here’s the full letter to Uganda’s president: Petition_Opposing_Harmful_Uganda_Legislation
The missive to President Museveni comes as Congress prepares to delve into this growing international controversy. On Thursday, Jan. 21, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing on Uganda’s anti-gay bill, probing the foreign policy, public health, and human rights implications of the legislation. The hearing will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m., in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Lawmakers will hear testimony on these issues from the Global Center’s Director, Christine Lubinski, along with a State Department official, a Ugandan human rights expert, and others.
It also comes amid reports that David Bahati, the sponsor of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, plans to come to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4. Click here to read more about his planned trip.