Ugandan gay activist stresses LGBT equality key to fighting HIV/AIDS

Published: July 30, 2012

Does the fight for LGBT rights directly impact efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa?

Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha stressed during an interview with the Blade before he attended the International AIDS Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center last week that he feels the two movements are interconnected. He said that a majority of LGBT Ugandans remain in heterosexual relationships, but a lack of information and pervasive homophobia contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS. “They’re married, they’re partnered, they’re in heterosexual relationships but as well they’re keeping their same-sex relations,” stressed Mugisha. “So that means there’s no information on any protective measures. There’s no information on anything so that means they’re engaging in unsafe sex and it is increasing HIV/AIDS.”

Mugisha, who is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, was among who those discussed the virus’ impact on men and boys and ways they can prevent its spread during a July 22 panel at AIDS

He said he also spoke with a Ugandan government official whom he declined to identify about anti-LGBT discrimination in the East African country during the conference. Mugisha told the Blade before AIDS 2012 that he planned to ask other Ugandan politicians who had traveled to D.C. to attend the five-day gathering about the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that once contained a provision that would have imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts and its impact on efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“I think they may be a bit defensive,” he said. “They may say that no, we don’t discriminate against anyone. Anyone can go seek help, treatment. We don’t ask people’s sexual orientation. I’ll tell them let’s be logical here. There’s no programming, there’s no information so how do you expect someone to go and seek genuine services.”

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