Medics say no to UN, US claims on gay Aids

Uganda's President Museveni, UNAIDS chief and UN undersecretary general Winnie Byanyima and US President Joe Biden. PHOTO/COMBO CREATED MAY 30,2023

What you need to know:

  • The statement suggested, without providing any real proof, that HIV positive homosexuals and lesbians in Uganda are now afraid to come out and seek medical and other care.  

Medical authorities yesterday rejected claims by the United Nations and US government that Uganda, through its newly enacted anti-homosexuality law, is somehow plotting to deny HIV/Aids care to gay people.

Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the head of public health affairs at the Health Ministry, told Monitor that the ministry has been, and will continue, providing care to everyone without discrimination.

“Healthcare is for everyone regardless of who you are. We even look after those who are on death row. Our work is a calling; it is not about feeling and interest,” Dr Kyabayinze said.

“Americans are trying to frame it as if we are against certain groups. I don’t know why they are attaching the Anti-homosexuality Act to the Ministry of Health. It has nothing to do with health,” he added.  

Joining other professionals, Dr Kyabayinze disagreed with views contained in a joint statement by the Global Fund for HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis; the Joint United Nations Programme (UNAIDS) and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). 

The statement suggested, without providing any real proof, that HIV positive homosexuals and lesbians in Uganda are now afraid to come out and seek medical and other care.  

“LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalisation,” the statement read. 

They said cutting homosexuals out from interventions would affect the country’s plans to end HIV/Aids as a public health threat. The statement did not say where suspected gay individuals are asked to identify themselves as such, and then denied HIV/Aids treatment in Uganda.

Reported HIV prevalence among men who sleep with men is around 13 percent, according to data provided by the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC). 

Managers of the PEPFAR programme recently warned that the country risks losing the $400 million (Shs1.4 trillion) support to millions of people with living with HIV/Aids in Uganda.  

There are clauses in the Act which prescribe life imprisonment for engaging in homosexuality and 20 years imprisonment for activities by a person or organisation that seek to “encourage” and “normalise” homosexuality. 

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Clause 2 c of the Act states that a person promotes homosexuality where the person “provides financial support, whether in kind or cash, to facilitate activities that encourage homosexuality or the observance or normalisation of an offence under this Act.”

However, Dr Stephen Watiti, a person living with HIV/Aids (PLHIV), and chairman of the National Forum of People Living with HIV/Aids Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), said although there is public disgust against homosexuals, they still receive health care just like any other PLHIV. 

“There is nobody who is going to stop anyone from getting care. You may not even tell that someone who has come to the hospital is from the LGBTQ+ group,” Dr Watiti said.

“I know some of them who have HIV. [But] the majority of those people are not even HIV positive. Many LGBTQ members also get their medicines from abroad. The majority of those who are speaking here don’t even have HIV,” he said. 

All the same, Dr Watiti observed that Uganda could be in trouble if gay lobbyists succeed in halting funding for HIV/Aids. 

“There is a lot of international politics at play. If they stopped funding for even a week, you would see trouble,” Dr Watiti said. “You would lose somebody you know, it might not be overnight, because over 90 percent of drugs we have in the country are from these people; [donors like 
PEPFAR]. The US government is not gay but they have lobbyists who can make a lot of noise and make life hard for you [Ugandans with HIV/AIDS].”

However, Dr Nelson Musoba, the Director General UAC, was optimistic that donor nations will not withdraw HIV/Aids funding.

“The US has said that there will be no delay, they have clarified. We’ve engaged with both the US government and the Global Fund. They have indicated that funding would be available,” Dr Musoba revealed.

The UAC chief noted that; “they are just taking precautions and saying for communities that may be discriminated, ‘What steps do we want to put in place to ensure that they continue accessing treatment to ensure that they continue to access treatment?’”