Friday, July 31, 2009

HIV, Gay Ugandans and Stigma

On the Spot; NTV tonight.

Major Rubaramira.

I have heard of the guy, and knew that he is a fearless HIV activist. And the papers have quoted him being gay friendly. But I have never seen him, or at least we don’t move in the same cycles. His are rarefied.

He is a veteran of the bush war. The one which brought the current president into power. But I think he did fall out with him, and then tied his star to that of Besigye, the opposition leader, who is also a veteran.

Rubaramira was on the NTV station. The topic; HIV, Gays and stigma.

The presenter was relatively unschooled. Maybe I just tend to know a lot about the gay topic! He didn’t know the correct questions to ask. He was weaving around the topic. And Rubaramira himself is a compelling individual. HIV positive, a veteran, fearless, and an HIV activist. He is in his 60s, and has lived with HIV for 25 years. He is a very well informed and opinionated individual.

So, the topic actually discussed ranged from the Major’s testimony of living with HIV, and how he did it, and how others can do that, and what the country was doing about HIV prevention at this particular moment.

Gay issues were discussed. But certainly as part of the issue.

Why now? Apparently, the Lancet article is making waves. People are asking questions. Being Ugandans, they are wondering. Are gays realy there? What to do about them? A moral question, so tighten the laws and force them out of Uganda? What about recruiting? What about sodomy in schools? etc, etc…! Those were the questions that the presenter asked of the Major. (Gosh, I cringed when the presenter aske what was the problem, these guys do not reproduce- like in have children!!!!! The major corrected him on that)

And the answers were concise, and easy. HIV is a disease. We have to understand that gay people exist in Uganda. Not burry our collective heads in the sand. And, the solution was not to make tougher laws, and not to stigmatise them.

One caller insisted it was a moral issue. Uganda is going to the dogs. Morality wise. And something has to be done. Subtext- stronger laws, and apply them. The Major refused such simplicity. Uganda is a Christian country? Surely? What about the Moslems?...!

And the often touted hate the sin and love the sinner. Christian hypocrisy. (My assesment. The major quoted Jesus and the woman caught in adultery)

I think the topic had broadened out too much, so, the guys in the studio wanted more fire. Decision, ring up Ssempa. Yes, the good Pastor. You know his opinion.. I documented it here. But, for some reason, he had not phoned in voluntarily. So, at the tail end of the program, he was put on line.

I listened to his question.

Ssempa is certifiably stupid. I have said that many times, but I must say it is such a prominent part of his personality that when you are dealing with him, you have to remember that despite the high sounding phraseology, the quasi-american gangster accent, that there is supreme emptiness in the words that he speaks. Truth. Fact.

Anyway, Ssempa reacted with a very personal attack on the Major. "That man." Those were his words. He attacked him personally, inspite of the wealth of knowledge the major had laid down before hand. Came off like they have had an ongoing quarrel. Ssempa is a better HIV activist than the Major. (Truth, I am stating what the man said, Ssempa.) That he has been an HIV activist for longer than the good Major. That the Abstinence, and being faithful which Ssempa champions has been working, and now the Major is advocating legalization of homosexuality…! And, that they have known of all this homosexual money being channeled into the country, and that Uganda will not take it. I waited for Ssempa to come out and frankly accuse the Major of taking homosexual money to champion the cause of gay HIV prevention. He didn’t come out to say it. But he certainly implied it. Wow! Well, the major should expect it. Anyone who opposes Ssempa is a homosexual, or is following the homosexual agenda.

Rebuttal, the Major didn’t have enough time. Ssempa flies all over the map, throwing out red herrings. And this was a major one. No, it was a lie, the Major had not advocated for legalizing homosexuality. And why was Ssempa accusing him of that?

I think it was to hide the fact that Ssempa was not answering the questions posed.

HIV is a big problem amongst gay men. Gay Ugandans. Statistics were quoted, but I am not sure the source. And increasing the stigma isn’t the way to go about prevention….

That is, unless you are Pastor Martin Ssempa.


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