Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Of HIV, AIDS, and 'Structural' Impendiments

Work follows me everywhere.....

Sigh. Some would say I am a workaholic, and thus should not 'grumble' about that fact. But, why ever not? Grumbling, even when it is of a thing that I would rather do, reminds me of the fact that I have the option NOT to do it.... LOL. Twisted reasoning, if there was any.

But blogging is one thing that I can usually spare some time for. Was just reading an article about HIV. The very first report of the cases of HIV that appeared in the scientific literature. Funny. HIV has become one of the most important, and significant things in this kuchu's life. So, it is important to remember that in a few days time, it will be the 30th anniversary of the very first reports. Here is one doctor's account of those days.

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.

Well, am a kuchu. And, the first reports were amongst gay men. So, no wonder this 'new' microbe has played a role in my life. 
I am also a Ugandan. And, in the dark days of the 80s, 90s, when almost each and every Ugandan had a relative, or knew a relative who died of HIV/AIDS.... OK, this disease knows no discrimination. Kudos to the people who have fought it down the decades, and others who continue to fight it today, and tomorrow. The human race has risen up magnificently to a new threat. Though the challenges continue.

Fascinatingly, here is an HIV/AIDS timeline. Not really Ugandan. But, fascinating.

I have learnt that the Anti-Homosexuality bill (Bahati's Bill) is a 'structural barrier' to HIV prevention. Now, now, now... trust medics to come up with fancy names for something as simple as wanting to say that the bill is not conducive to HIV prevention amongst gay Ugandans. What happened to simple to understand language?

This structural impendiment, aka the Bahati Bill, will it come back?

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.

Yep. But, at the end of the article is Bahati firing back.

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."

LOL, of course we knew it.

Bahati gained lots of kudos for introducing the bill in Uganda's parliament. He won the election 'unopposed'. Granted, that can mean a lot of things in dear, beautiful Uganda. But, he did. And, he is into the new parliament. It was actually speculated that he would become the new minister of Ethics and Integrity.... after the unlamented Nsaba Buturo...

Did Bahati get a post? I don't think so....

But, the structural impendiment to HIV prevention is still on the table. Buturo, Ssempa, Bahati, Langa the ideologue... they are all still up and strong.

But, we kuchus live another day to fight.

Hope you are well!


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