I Have Not Been Silenced

Published: May 27, 2014

As I write these lines, I remember how far we have come and how far we still have to go. I recognize the many barriers that we face, despite the tremendous need to overcome them, and the sad fact that some of these barriers come from within us.

In early 2004, having finished medical school and a stint up-country in a war zone that left an indelible imprint on my mind, I found myself in a good place – working in a nice, secure job in Kampala, having accepted my sexuality. I am a gay man. I realized that wishing it away was nothing short of delusional.

I had also found Kampala’s gay community – Kuchus, as we call ourselves.

My story starts with a phone call. A friend of mine told me that one of our loose acquaintances, a member of the community, had just crashed, been diagnosed with HIV. Would I meet with him, since many of my patients were HIV-positive and I worked in one of the few clinics that stocked the precious new drugs? Sure.

As I began the consultation, he asked me many questions. As far as he knew, men got HIV from women. Had he been infected by a lover who had slept with a woman? Was he correct in assuming that Kuchus were not at risk of HIV since we didn’t have sex with women? What was the connection between gay sex and HIV? I thought I knew, but I had no idea.

It has been years, but I still remember my horror, on that quiet evening in front of my computer, when I realized the connection. I realized my lack of knowledge, my ignorance, and the risks that we Kuchus had been exposing ourselves to because of our lack information.

 

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