State Department response to Uganda anti-homosexuality bill: In a statement released yesterday by the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the anti-homosexuality bill, which calls for life imprisonment for people living with HIV who commit homosexual acts, and expressed concern over HIV control efforts now that homosexuality has been criminalized. Calling yesterday “a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights,” Secretary Kerry went on to say that repealing the law is the only solution. “We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.”
Senator Patrick Leahy calls for reviewing funding to Uganda: In a statement released today, Chairman of the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Patrick Leahy expressed “I cannot support providing further funding to the Government of Uganda until the United States has undergone a review of our relationship,” in light of President Museveni’s signing of anti-homosexuality legislation. “Much of U.S. assistance to Uganda is for the people of Uganda, including those in the Ugandan LGBT community whose human rights are being so tragically violated,” he writes.
Denmark rethinking aid to Uganda: Denmark’s Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation released a statement today saying his government will restructure close to DKK 50 million of development assistance to the Ugandan government in light of the anti-homosexuality bill’s passage. Funding will instead go to civil society groups and the private sector. “The fact that the Ugandan Government is passing a draconic law against homosexuals shall not change Denmark’s commitment to assist poor Ugandans.”
Nurse living with HIV imprisoned in Uganda: The HIV Medicine Association joined with the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care and the International AIDS Society to release this statement to express concern over the recent arrest and imprisonment of Rosemary Namubiru, a 64 year old Ugandan nurse living with HIV who accidentally pricked herself with a needle while trying to give an injection to a child. Even though she stopped, washed, and bandaged her finger before administering the shot, “She was subsequently arrested in front of assembled media, thrown in jail and charged with attempted murder,” despite the fact that the child tested negative for HIV. “A firestorm of inflammatory and sensational news media has vilified Ms. Namubiru and by extension, any HIV positive healthcare worker and all people living with HIV,” the statement continues.
“Our concerns are for Rosemary Namubiru as an individual and a colleague, and we stand in solidarity with her. We also fear that this case could set a dangerous precedent, in terms of both the criminalization of HIV exposure and the treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS. Human rights violations and abuses directed toward HIV positive people and subsequent stigma and discrimination are fueling the epidemic and are some of the principal barriers to achieving an AIDS free world.”
Battle against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law is not over: In this blog post, South African doctor Andrew Tucker calls the Ugandan anti-homosexuality law, “one of the most draconian pieces of legislation against homosexuals in the long history of draconian pieces of legislation against homosexuals.” Tucker cites findings from a South African research team which found that despite decades of HIV prevention messages targeted towards LGBT people, the population still has a very high HIV prevalence due to homophobia: “One important piece of evidence that has been uncovered is that gay men in the townships of Cape Town suffer very high rates of depression and that their depression is associated with homophobia and with risky sexual practices that can lead to HIV infection.” Calling homophobia a form of “health violence,” Tucker writes, “If you decide to persecute and discriminate against homosexuals you may well lead to increased HIV infection rates among your populous.”