Activists arrested during attempt to highlight Uganda's neglect of HIV prevention for men who have sex with men
Michael Carter, Friday, June 06, 2008
Three gay, lesbian and transgender individuals have been arrested in Uganda after peacefully protesting about an announcement from the Ugandan AIDS Commission that no resources would be directed to HIV programmes targeting gay men and other men who have sex with men.
The arrests happened at the HIV/AIDS Implementers’ Meeting which is currently taking place in Uganda. Representing Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the three individuals were attempting to draw the delegates’ attention to a statement made by Kihumuro Apuuli, Director General of the Uganda AIDSA Commission, on May 2nd that: “gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meagre resources we cannot direct our programmes to them at this time.”
An annual event, the HIV Implementer’s Meeting is co-sponsored by major HIV donors including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, the World Bank, the Global Fund, UNAIDS, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+).
The protestors were attempting to gain access to the meeting in order to deliver a funding proposal for HIV prevention work with men who have sex with men to donors. They were arrested and detained by security staff, and charged with criminal trespass.
Ironically, the Implementers’ meeting is meant to be an opportunity to share information about best practice and lessons learned during the scale-up of HIV prevention and treatment programmes in resource-limited settings.
The arrests were condemned by Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and by Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS, during plenary sessions at the conference.
Mark Dybul, head of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, subsequently authorised the registration of the protestors at the meeting, and told activists that representations had been made by the meeting organisers to ensure their release.
There has been concern for some time that Uganda is not only failing to acknowledge the HIV prevention needs of gay men and other men who have sex with men, but pursuing aggressively homophobic policies.
Studies have recently shown that gay men in Uganda have an HIV prevalence level of 26%, but are not a target for HIV prevention. Guidelines for PEPFAR, one of the leading organisers of the implementers’ meeting, clearly state that men who have sex with men should be a priority for HIV prevention. However, the Ugandan health ministry has complained to UNAIDS about the inclusion of the needs of gay men in HIV prevention initiatives. This action was defended by a representative of the country’s AIDS Commission who said “the practice of homosexuality is illegal.”
In August 2007, the country’s deputy attorney general called for the criminal prosecution of gays and lesbians. Ugandan law imposes a possible life-sentence for “homosexual conduct” and “gross indecency” has a penalty of five years in jail with sodomy having a 14-year sentence.
The Ugandan authorities have also indicated that they are considering changing the law “so that the promotion [of homosexual conduct] itself becomes a crime” and said that “catalogues” were being compiled “of people we think are involved in perpetuating the vice of homosexuality.”
In November 2004, the Ugandan government fined the broadcaster, Radio Simba, for airing a programme that discussed prejudice against gay people and their need for HIV services. The government said the radio station had acted against “public morality.”
There is also concern that organisations in Uganda that are overtly homophobic or spread false information about the reliability of condoms have been receiving PEPFAR funds. The giving of funds to such organisations is specifically forbidden in PEPFAR guidelines.
One example of such an organisation is Pastor Martin Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church. His website has listed Ugandan gay rights activists, posting pictures and contact information and calling them “homosexual promoters.” The pastor testified before a committee of the US Congress in 2005 as a representative of the Ugandan First Lady’s AIDS Task Force. In August 2007 he helped organise a rally demanding government action against gay people, calling homosexual conduct “a criminal act against the laws of nature.”
The Makerere Community Church also disseminates information stating that condoms do not protect against HIV and has burnt condoms in public. The organisation has received $40,000 in PEPFAR funding to provide an abstinence education programme, according to Human Rights Watch.
Yes yes we know the guys are gay, and that they were protesting peacefully. But lets not forget that what they are charged with is criminal trespass. Lets not get too emotional here...
All the talk is about state sponsored homophobia, but my guess is were the guys not gay and committed the same offence of trespass, they would still have been arrested. And of course nobody would have made behind-the-scenes representations for their release, so they are very likely to still be languishing in jail even now!
Why do we gays like to cry "murder" everytime something happens and we get the chance to do so? I'm glad though that the protesters were eventually registered..
Ha ha ha Controversial,
indeed you deserve the name!
But you are raising a valid point.
We do cry wolf, a lot. Though, i would say in this case it might be a case of the genuine being mistaken for the other times!!!!
In Uganda, the opposition leader is arrested for Rape near the elections. Of course everyone starts crying it is political, because one wonders at the timing!
Fact is we use the circumstances. And in this case, it was justified. In my opinion.
Its almost like whenever a black person in the US is fired from his job, the first thing he says is "it is because I'm black"
But seriously, its true, gays ought to be included in the fight against HIV/AIDS, indeed as a priority. And yes, we should sieze upon every opportunity to trumpet this until we achieve it. However, the Uganda government are terrified of shooting themselves in the foot, so I expect a long hard battle, so sharpen your pangas..
If racism, homophobia, misogyny, class, etc., weren't so blatantly ongoing in public affairs, there wouldn't be any need to cry wolf or "trespass" anywhere! So before anyone gets excited about "the gays", let's start with the repressive regimes that cause the trouble, shall we? And not just in Africa!
How inhuman can one be as to even hate it when someone tells young unmarried people to abstain from sex! The agenda of human rights watch is to condomise developing countries and to to spread sexual promiscuity and perversion.
Am not surprised at who is believing HRW but leave Dr Ssempa alone. He has offered a huge service to this nation
David,David, David. *sigh* Such rubbish you speak.
Go and read the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At least then you will know what "human rights" actually involves,which right now you don't seem to.
Then visit the HRW web-site:
The first thing that will strike you is the sheer diversity of human rights action and monitoring going on. Sexual orientation is a very small if vital part of the whole.
On the left is a hyperlink "About HRW" describing in more detail what they do:
Nowhere will you find the words "condomise" (is there such a word?), sexual promiscuity" or "perversion".
Like your Bible interpretations, and the vainglorious Ssempa, you live in your own little world, don't you...
[grumble, grumble], you have gone ahead and given links to Kimbowa!!!
Now he will learn something about HRW apart from what Ssempa tells him in Church. That will be terrible. He will learn not to hate.
Would it be a too hard to think that he would try to learn, realy learn about homosexuals so that he does not hate them?
Hey DeT, what would you say to his advice to young unmarried people about sex?
Sad to say, David Kimbowa comes across as ignorant, fearful and more of a follower than a thinker.
Still, never say never! "Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything" - Euripedes (one of those ancient Greeks revered in the West).
the homos who invaded the AIDS implementers meeting portrays the thin line between homosexuality and crime.majority of Women in the US death row sentence are lesbians,child molestation is the order of the day among homos etc.homos should condemn and advocate for the law on trespass to take its course against their rebellious friends.Instead they are intimidating Ugandans.
we are a democratic and value based nation with God Man and Natured honoured.
Am just betting with myself that you must be part of the Ssempa Praise Choir. What with 'value' based. Only Ssempa, with his years in the US seems to say things like that. So, I am going to check out your profile now.
The Praise Choir here!
Tell me Emmanuel, does Ssempa teach about this blog in your church? I cant believe the coincidence that brings you guys here to hurl stones and abuse.
But never mind. You are actually welcome.
The only rule is that you can abuse me as much as you want, long as you do not abuse my guests, ok?
Now, what you said was positively chilling.
the thin line between homosexuality and crime.majority of Women in the US death row sentence are lesbians,child molestation is the order of the day among homos etc.homos should condemn and advocate for the law on trespass to take its course against their rebellious friends.
Venom, hate, ignorance.
All flowing from the tip of your fingers. You do not know me. I am what I am, and you support the law that would imprison me for life. You accuse me of child molestation, and tell me that lesbians are the majority on the US death row [dont know what that has to do with me.]
Ok, Emma, why do you hate me so much? Why do you come frothing at the mouth with such hate?
Do they teach you hate at your church? Kimbowa has tried to explain to me why he hates me so much. I have not been able to understand.
Emma, why do you hate me so much?
Gug, I'm not sure these Ssempa followers deserve the time and attention you shower on their comments. These comments speak for themselves. The comments illustrate just how ridiculously uninformed theese people are. Perhaps their pastor is so uninspired that he has no other message for his flock than Go Forth and Hate the Gays!
I wouldn't bother even engaging in exchanges with them. I would leave them to wallow in their ignorance, because at the end of the day, I doubt that the time will come when homosexuality will be wholeheartedly embraced by the majority of these self-righteous Ssempa followers. Let them not embrace us. All I desire is for them to recognise our right to live our lives, regardless of their opinion about us. They should acknowledge our right to be treated equally as human beings, and our right to be free from discrimination and degrading treatment. For if they are really Christians as they claim, this should be second nature to them, as it is for the likes of Desmond Tutu. Rather than this, what we see from them is pure hatred.
in true controversial fashion, I want to convert my enemy...
Errr, wrong choice of words. They will think I want to lay them, no! [horror of horrors, now i have chased them away for good!]
I just want to see whether they are impervious to knowledge!
Yet it is amazing.
For about a couple of years now, or more, I have been aware of Pastor Ssempa. He is a virulent anti-gay crusader. And I have been asking myself why.
WildeY thought he may be a repressed homo. I quite agreed with him!!!!
But I wanted to know have some insight into what these guys think. I must admit I was scared at the mob mentality when they were at the People's space, agitating to beat up gay people. But there is something fascinating in reading what they write.
That someone could be so blind!
*sings* Condomise, condomise, condomise, condomise doo doo daa doo doo daa doo doo daa, let's condomise.
I like people who make up words. Let's Condomise the world. What awesome slogan! Must be said in a cheesy 60s American accent.
@Spiralx: I'm just laughing, no useful advice coming from me today.
The whole 'must be married to have sex' idea just irritates me. Since I don't plan on ever getting married unless I decide that the guy I'm with has a totally kickarse last name and I want it!
So no advice. But 2nd Virginity is the biggest bullshit I've ever fucking heard!!!
I'm wondering since this is all about Guy/Guy does that mean it's okay if I have sex with another girl? And does kissing count? What if members of the same sex just kiss, is that still bad? Is there some sort of definitive 'line of no return' one crosses?
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