Saturday, November 24, 2018

Pink-washed HIV Programming in Uganda


Pink-washing; Of countries embracing and touting LGBT rights and achievements for ‘liberal credentials’ and to distract from human rights abuses in other spheres. Examples; Cuba. Israel.

Pink-washed HIV programming; Of countries, companies, NGOs and even individuals cosmetically embracing HIV prevention and care programming for (gay men) MSM, transgender women (and Sex workers, Injection drug users; the Key Populations in HIV epidemiology)

They all seem adorable and commendable, no? But, like white wash, it is cosmetic, shallow, for purely, and coldly pragmatic and political reasons. In short, we queer people are being taken for a ride. And, please, do not be so lacking in self-respect and needy of attention to believe that our rights trump all others and intersectionality doesn’t matter. If they can’t respect rights for all, have no doubt. There is no real respect of us queer human beings.
Uganda is shining example.

A truncated history; Knowledge of HIV/AIDS in Uganda broke as ‘slim disease’ in early 1980s.

It spread like wildfire. Our people died. Few families didn’t lose at least one person. Sons, daughters, parents, cousins. Aunties, uncles, grand parents.

At first, with no drugs, HIV programming was by proxy. Fear.
And, then came the moralists. Abstinence from Sex. Being faithful to one partner. Condoms  were problematic; the idea that sex outside marriage could be made ‘safer’ was horrifying. So, condoms were downplayed. Oh, un-officially, people were careful. Officially…., no condom programming. God help us, not to anyone under 18.

By 2008, gay activists were demanding HIV programming. And being arrested and prosecuted for it. Uthman, Pepe Julian Onziema and Val Kalende were there.

Come 2014, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill became law…, and did I say medics had a civic duty to report big bad homosexuals and that the US Army Walter Reeds clinic in Kampala was closed for ‘training youths in homosexuality’? Yeah, it was giving ARV drugs and care and doing research on gay Ugandan men. How horrible and terrible of the US government!

But, Global Fund insisted on need for programming for key populations. Including gay men, transgender women, people who inject drugs, and sex workers. So, programming was done, on the hush. Ugandans are hyper moralists. Mere mention of the existence of stigmatised key populations is not kosher. Little issues like importation of condom-safe, water based lubricants were papered over…. The public was indignant that anal sex could be made safer…., The official refrain, money for HIV programming is going to be held up, if we don’t do any programming for these despised, despicable but vulnerable HIV key populations. Inquiries in parliament dumbed down.

Come 2018, 22nd November.

After the ruling party receives a thumping in by-elections earlier in the year, and opposition MPs are beaten and tortured, and the rise of ‘People Power’ refrain, there is dire need of a distraction.
Parliament scored first (all MPs will be on the ballot). The Uganda parliament delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference spearheads adoption of a moratorium on any debate on LGBT issues at the IPU. Well reported in Uganda, and backslapping and all round congratulations and rounds of applause in Uganda Parliament when the delegates returned, flushed with success on the international scene. This is no joke, or fake news. Nsaba-Buturo, (homophobe fallen out of political grace), and former Minister of Ethics and Integrity, commends the Speaker of Uganda Parliament, Madam Kadaga, for her leadership at the IPU mobilisation. He wants her for President, come 2024. Such stellar anti-gay credentials are all that’s necessary (in his mind) to be President of the Republic.

But, that was parliament. Government needs to do its own thing. Time for a good distraction.

Uganda AIDS Commission convenes a meeting, the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Symposium, 22 November 2018. Minister of Ethics and Integrity the Rt Honourable Lokodo, official homophobe, has oversight in whats said at the meeting. It will stretch your credulity on how he gains such considerable over-sight powers. He couldn’t stop the international Nyege nyege festival (an orgy of homosexuality, nudity and drugs akin to "devil worship"). As a matter of fact, he got a literal slap in the face and was disowned by government. Of his ethics credentials, not a squeak came out his mouth when members of parliament were beaten and tortured. Did he condemn the lies that government spewed forth like a cataract of the mighty Nile? I don’t know. The noise was deafening, of the lies.

So, as per the activists who attended, reports Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG),

“Lokodo targeted our Acting Programs Director Richard Lusimbo who after lots of research and preparation was supposed to give a presentation about "Using Rights Evidence and Action to support HIV among Most At Risk Populations" We still have lots of work to do to ensure Lokodo understands HIV and it's connection to most at risk populations including key populations in Uganda. He is clearly not well informed but also defying science which is unfortunate”

And, of those other HIV activists that had apparently made common cause with Key population advocates, here is Dennis Wamala’s scathing assessment;

“players in the civil society have repeatedly failed to stand up to Lokodo. "I have had numerous exchanges with them about this but they seem to be more interested in pleasing him than standing for what they know is right."

Man of the moment. Major Rubaramira Ruhanga. When I knew him, he was a fierce, fearless HIV activist who actually embraced us as gay Ugandans, and the need to have specific HIV prevention and care programming for us. Nope, my memory is not at fault here. But then, at that particular moment in time, he was in the opposition. But now he is toeing the government line. And indeed, he is reported by key population activists who attended the meeting, to have uttered these shame filled words.

“Major Rubaramira Ruranga has today made the HIV Prevention Symposium even worse for Key Populations by saying Government has an oversight role and can decide what to be said in meetings and can also close down the meetings whenever they want.

In fact Major Rubaramira says if he knew that Dr. Kyambade's team (MARPI and MOH KP) was going to talk about KPs, he would have stopped him from presenting!

The major also wondered why government should waste money on drug users who invite a problem to themselves, buy expensive drugs to inject and yet ask for free services like Needle and Syringes.

He said that he regrets having contracted HIV but doesn't feel sorry for those who go and buy sex, inject drugs and eventually contract HIV.”

Now, what a flip of the two faced coin.

That is what it means to have ‘Pink-washed HIV programming’ and the logical conclusion of such a ‘foundation in the sand’ basis. BTW, where were the (toothless) Minister(s) of health? Hard to believe they are more irrelevant than Lokodo!

Aluta continua


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