Three decades ago, the June 5, 1981, issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reported on five previously healthy young gay men in Los Angeles diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), an infectious disease usually seen only in people with profoundly impaired immune function. As a specialist in infectious diseases and immunology, I had cared for several people with PCP whose immune systems had been weakened by cancer chemotherapy. I was puzzled about why otherwise healthy young men would acquire this infection. And why gay men? I was concerned, but mentally filed away the report as a curiosity.
One month later, the MMWR wrote about 26 cases in previously healthy gay men from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, who had developed PCP as well as an unusual form of cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma. Their immune systems were severely compromised. This mysterious syndrome was acting like an infectious disease that probably was sexually transmitted. My colleagues and I never had seen anything like it. The idea that we could be dealing with a brand-new infectious microbe seemed like something for science fiction movies.
Tired but elated, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a whip-thin 30-year old Ugandan with long braids and a man's shirt, smoked cigarettes and rested at her bar in a Kampala suburb. She had named the place Sappho, after the Greek poet and lesbian icon, and that night there would be a party.
More than 18-months of struggle, fear, threats, the murder of one of her closest friends, and the hatred of politicians and religious leaders, Nabagesera felt she could finally breath again.
"Today is a victory for gay people in Uganda and for the whole world. The bill is dead," she said.
Friday's shelving of Bahati's anti-homosexuality bill is a victory for Uganda's hidden gay community, but it is not the end of the anti-gay legislation.
Speaking to GlobalPost, Bahati insisted he will propose similar legislation.
"In the next parliament I will be moving forward to ensure we have a law to stop recruitment and promotion [of homosexuality]," he said.
Bahati said that the death penalty would be removed from the new version of the bill but added, "This is not the end … we have just pressed a pause button but in a few days from now, when the next parliament starts, we will press the play button again."