Opinion: Anti Gay Forces Sabotaging Uganda's Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Published: April 18, 2012

Uganda is stuck at 6.4per cent HIV/Aids prevalence, with new figures released this week showing an increment in infections.

The new Uganda Aids Indicator Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) reveals not only has the HIV prevalence rate stagnated over the last 10 years, the number of people infected with HIV has risen from 1.8 million people to 2.3 million today.
 
Dr Alex Opio, assistant commissioner, National Disease Control at the MoH, said this is not statistically different from the HIV prevalence of 6.4 per cent five years ago. But Dr Benon Biryahwaho from the Uganda Virus Research Institute says 6.7 per cent is a large burden of disease for a poor country, and Uganda needs to rethink its Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condom-use (ABC) strategy.
 
It is true that infections have risen slightly among married heterosexual people. And while it is also true that Uganda had previous successes in scaling down the pandemic from over 30 per cent in the 1980s, new frontiers to address the scourge are being frustrated through policies and laws.
 
The Proposed Anti Homosexuality Bill will make such efforts worse.
 
Many of my friends are married to women. But they also have sex with their fellow men. Such men do not consider themselves gay. They refer to their activities as a “boy’s night out” thing.
 
While these men insist on using condoms as a protection measure when cheating with another woman, they refuse to wear condoms when they are with other men.
 
The logic is simple here: Ugandans have been made to believe that one can only contract HIV from having sex with an infected member of the opposite sex. This is totally misleading. Unfortunately, this is the reality with Ugandan HIV policies. All the prevention, voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) messages target heterosexuals, leaving out the Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM).
 
The key question becomes whether Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex persons should be left to bear the brunt of an HIV prevalence rate that is twice the national average, or whether positive legislative and policy steps can and should be taken, based on evidence and research, to address their health needs.
 
Policy makers often feel compelled by moral concerns to pretend that the gay community or MSM do not exist. But consider the following statistics that have emerged from the Crane Survey Report, a research collaboration between MoH, Centres for Disease Control and Makerere University.

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