Dr Semugoma (a.k.a. GayUganda) on LGBT Invisibility in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Published: August 9, 2012

Yesterday, I posted a video interview of Dr. Paul Semugoma (many of you know him as GayUganda) talking about the challenges of confronting HIV/AIDS in a country with such rampant homophobia that it is dangerous for LGBT people to disclose themselves to their doctors. Dr. Semugoma also spoke at a plenary session at the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. on July 27, discussing “The Dynamics of the Epidemic in Context,” the particular context being that in many governments around the world are unwilling to address the reality that gay men exist in their countries.
 
In addition to the video above, you can find an error-laden transcript of his talk here(PDF: 160KB/55 pages). While Dr. Semoguma had come out in Facebook and other social media, this was his coming-out moment, quite literally, on the world stage (at about the 3:15 mark):
 

Men who have sex exist with men, everywhere. You know, it’s kind of interesting to start like that. When we talk about men who have sex with men, actually I am also a man who has sex with men. [applause.] It’s a major and important point to point out that men who have sex with men exist everywhere. If we say that they don’t exist then we don’t know how to deal with them, we don’t know how to get to the challenges that we have in HIV prevention with them.
 
He then described a pivotal moment in his life which showed him that the epidemic would never be dealt with successfully unless gay and bisexual men are included in HIV-prevention messages (at about the 4:35 mark):
 

I want to tell you a story about the patient who changed my life. This was in 2004. I was by then a medical doctor. I had studied in two medical schools, that is at Muhimbili Medical Center in the University of Dar es Salaam and I had also studied at Makerere University. I had a bit of work up country, and then I’d gone back to Kampala, which is the capital city of Uganda, to start work in private practice.
 
As I said, I’m a gay man. I had been dealing with HIV amongst Ugandans and I knew it was a disease that is spread by sex, but I had not been confronted by then by the fact that HIV is also spread by gay sex. I didn’t have that link. So I was faced by this guy. He was gay. I knew him. He had bisexual practices meaning he used to sleep with men and at some point in time he had slept with women. And He had been recently diagnosed with HIV.
 
One of the things that he told me was, “One of my lovers must have slept with a woman.” I was like, “You didn’t sleep with a woman at this particular point, you must have got it from your lover.” But his point was since I’ve been seeing all these nice photos of men and women and the government telling us, “Be careful, love carefully.” These are the ones who spread HIV; it is the women who give it to us. But he also asked me a question: how do I protect my lovers? And that was the question that changed my life. I knew at that particular moment that I didn’t know how to protect him, how to give him the information, how to tell him to protect his lovers, and that was the changing point because I then discovered that because I didn’t know, I was ignorant. I was in sort of denial because I was a gay man and I am still a gay man. I just needed to know.
 
I had access to the internet and I quickly educated myself, something which we all have to do. It is important that we leave from being just friendly to MSM, to men who have sex with men, to being competent in care. [applause]  
This ignorance and denial it didn’t happen just with me. It is also with everybody. Just a few months ago, about three months ago in Uganda the first LGBT clinic was opened by one of the groups, one of the LGBT groups. They were saying that, well, we do not have a clinic, the doctors don’t really know the problems that we have and we need a clinic. They got funding (very good) put the clinic in Kampala (very good) and then made sure that the government didn’t know.

Full text of article available at link below –

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