Assessing the effects of anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda on HIV prevention, treatment, and care services

Published: November 28, 2012

Abstract

Uganda’s response to the HIV epidemic has been lauded for its robustness and achievements. However, a key component of HIV prevention programming has been missing, for men who have sex with men (MSM). The main reason cited has been criminalization of male homosexual behavior. In 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) was introduced in the parliament to enhance existing anti-homosexuality law. A multi-disciplinary team made a Health Impact Assessment of the proposed AHB. The bill as tabled would severely increase punishments, increased closeting. Social capital of MSM would be eroded by clauses mandating reporting by friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Health-care professionals would have to inform on homosexuals. Mandatory HIV testing would be a blow to programming. Probable disclosure of HIV status in a public space (court) would also be a deterrent. Heftier punishments for those testing positive increases stigma and hobbles subsequent care. The AHB argues for exclusion, and more discrimination targeting persons living with HIV and sexual minorities. It will exacerbate the negative public health consequences of the existing legislation. The government of Uganda should review guidance documents published by authoritative bodies including the World Bank, World Health Organization to develop and bring to scale Human rights-affirming HIV prevention, treatment, and care responses.

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