Health experts push Uganda to legalize homosexuality to fight HIV

Health experts push Uganda to legalize homosexuality to fight HIV

A quartet of African HIV experts are pushing Uganda’s government to reverse course on homosexuality, saying that decriminalization is the best way to deal with the stigma around HIV and AIDS.

Serge Paul Eholié from the Ivory Coast, James G. Hakim from Zimbabwe, Keletso Makofane from Harvard University, and Kenneth Ngure from Kenya, each International AIDS Society (IAS) Governing Council Africa regional representatives, spoke out in a statement was published in the Star Observer in the wake of the country’s latest attempt to pass a death sentence for homosexuality. 

Related: 16 arrested for homosexuality in gruesome raid of a Uganda HIV organization  

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“Uganda is facing a serious threat to human rights and the HIV response with the announcement of plans to introduce legislation that will impose the death penalty on people found to have had sex with a member of their own sex or to have ‘promoted’ homosexuality,” begins the statement.

“The bill is an expansion of a previous one that was passed five years ago and subsequently invalidated on a technicality,” it continues. “The latest bill would extend penalties to ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, broadening the scope to target human rights and health advocates for the LGBT community.”

Last month, a high-ranking government official said that Uganda would soon pursue a Kill the Gays bill. A week later, the president’s press secretary said that the government is not trying to pass the bill.

The experts also pointed out that homosexuality isn’t unnatural. 

“Top African scientists have definitively debunked that homosexuality is unnatural in Uganda and that people can be recruited to become LGBT,” reads the statement.

They further noted that by criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda, they were working against moves to halt the spread of HIV in the country. 

“Criminalizing LGBT people and other key populations is utterly incompatible with the mandates of an effective HIV response,” reads the statement. “In 2018, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender people, together with their partners, accounted for a majority of new HIV infections, underscoring the need for governments to work with, not against, these communities who are most vulnerable to HIV.”

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