Uganda government claims misunderstanding, while Uganda report cites HIV response gaps, Zambia cracks down and backtracks, and Kenya’s future . . . We’re reading about failures to communicate when politics trump health

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NewWWRStatement by the Government of Uganda on the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 – Most people have read by now that the Government of Uganda has added insult to injury with a claim that donors somehow “misinterpreted” the recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Law (which carries terms of 10 years to life in prison for gay sex) to be “a piece of legislation intended to punish or discriminate against people of a ‘homosexual orientation.'”  The statement released last week also says that “no activities of individuals, groups, companies or organisations will be affected by the Act” (which criminalizes “aiding and abetting homosexuality” and “promoting Uganda statement on AHAhomosexuality,” leading to the April raid and subsequent redirection of services for gay people at U.S.-funded Makere University Walter Reed HIV program) . . . You get the idea. When the statement asserts that the Government of Uganda “remains committed to guarantee full access to social services, including health and HIV/AIDS services, for all persons in Uganda without discrimination . . .” it is untrue.

The Uganda AIDS Accountability Scorecard – This report, produced by the Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations, with a foreword by the head of the government-based Uganda AIDS Commission, and completed as the Anti-Homosexuality Law awaited Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s signature, also ugandaaidsaccountabilityscorecardcontradicts the statement released by the Ugandan government last week. A “scorecard” completed by health service leaders, providers and consumers, it finds that Uganda’s HIV/AIDS prevention and care efforts lack services and even knowledge of “key populations.” That being noted, it is a peculiar document. It does not define “key populations,” and nowhere uses the term “men who have sex with men.” It does, on the other hand, go into intricate detail about health facility issues, including some that are over-staffed while others remain gravely under-staffed, lack of running water or clean water, broken beds, nonworking toilets, shortages of emergency transport . . .casting further doubt on Museveni’s claim that his country doesn’t “need aid in the first place.” The score card also finds stockouts of HIV testing kits, inadequate public education and confusing messages additionally hinder responses to the epidemic. In addition, it repeatedly cites the lingering impact of stigma surrounding HIV and women’s fears of violence if they disclose having the virus, issues for Museveni to be aware of as he considers the HIV Prevention and Control Act, which criminalizes transmission of HIV and mandates testing for pregnant women, their partners and sex crime victims.

Reflections on the case of two men accused of sodomy in Zambia – This blog post from the Southern African Litigation Centre, excerpted and linked to on the 76 Crimes blog, discusses events leading up to the arrests and finally the release of two young Zambian men who were held for more than a year in a Zambia jail after they were arrested on sodomy charges under the country’s colonial era law. Writer and attorney Anneke Meerkotter notes the stage was set for their arrests with series of homophobic incitements from then Zambia Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu. Those, she notes were followed by HIV treatment activist Paul Kasonkomona’s television interview in which he advocated lifting laws standing between gay people and HIV prevention and treatment services in order to more effectively address the epidemic, and by Kasonkomona’s arrest. Kasonkomona, as noted here was only repeating what the government itself had noted in its 2009 AIDS strategy review. Several years after the government recognized in that document that the nation’s anti-gay law was hurting its HIV response, this amfAR Zambia Country Profile tells how the country’s National AIDS Council was still waiting to conduct a survey on HIV among men who have sex with men. In any case, the well-publicized ordeal of the two men just released after the judge who denied them bail for a year concluded the case was “hearsay,” is likely to hinder the collection of meaningful information in such a survey. So why does a country hobble its own HIV response, as Uganda and Zambia have? This post, Sodomy in Zambia, examining a 1998 outbreak of homophobic backlash in Zambia, is linked to in the comments to Meerkotter’s post and offers an interesting perspective.

Kenyan gay activist visits San Francisco – In this Bay Area Reporter interview a visitor from Kenya tells a story that is at once harrowing, encouraging, and concerning. Harrowing: His experience growing up in a village in Kenya where “often times LGBT people will cut themselves or go through rituals to cleanse and rid themselves of their same-sex attractions.” Encouraging: His encounter with an American Jewish World Services representative who helped him become an advocate for sexual minorities in Kenya. Concerning: Progress against home-grown homophobia is being threatened by politics. The visitor, who does not allow his name to be used in the interview urges support for the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2014 introduced recently by Sen. Markey (D-Mass).

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