UGANDA: Calls for inclusion of MSM in new HIV strategy

Published: August 26, 2011

KAMPALA, 26 August 2011 (PlusNews) – A new national HIV/AIDS strategic plan for Uganda is due to be finalized before the year’s end, and gay rights activists are urging its authors to break with tradition and, for the first time, provide for programming for men who have sex with men.

The current national strategic plan, which covers the period between 2007/2008 and 2011/2012, does not mention MSM, despite studies reporting that they are at higher risk of contracting HIV than other adult men.

The plan lays out a framework for responding to the epidemic, pinpointing priority areas for programming; the next one is expected to guide the country’s HIV programmes until 2015.

"[The strategy] directs how resources from donors and governments are utilized," said Kikonyogo Kivumbi, executive director of the Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA-Uganda), which advocates for the rights of sexual minorities. "It means that whoever is going to access those resources in the delivery of public health services, if the policy directs them [to], they can introduce LGBTI [Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex]-friendly services."

The Crane Survey, a 2008/2009 study of high-risk groups in Uganda, reported that the HIV prevalence among MSM respondents was 13.7 percent, more than twice the national prevalence of about 6.4 percent.

"These people are engaging in sex. Whether you want it or not, infections [and] HIV will occur," said Kivumbi.

According to Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the absence of a national dialogue around safe sex education for sexual minorities means that many members of the MSM community do not know how to avoid HIV transmission.

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