In Uganda...HIV is a Death Penalty Again

Around ASF Blog
Volume 1 / Entry 15
June 21, 2012

Hello friends,

It’s been over a month since my last blog posting. I hope no one missed me. That’s not true. I hope lots of people missed reading this blog. It’s fun to hope.

The last month has been very busy for me at the agency and also very slow for me. It’s obvious why I haven’t blogged during the busy times, I think. During the slow times, I was actually on vacation for ten days…recovering from the busy times. It’s still a bit busy returning from vacation but I wanted to and had to write today.

As a gay man, I am well aware of the Ugandan bill that is always under threat of becoming law that would allow the death penalty for homosexual acts or for just being gay. It would also allow for imprisonment of anyone who did report someone they knew to be homosexual or who “aided and abetted” a homosexual (such as renting a room). What I didn’t know, until I read a recent article by ASF’s own Barbara Venezia, is that this bill also would impose the death penalty on anyone with HIV without consideration of how they acquired the disease.

In this blog, I have said several times that if we prevent any other infections from occurring, we could end this epidemic. It would eventually run its course when the remainder of its hosts, for lack of a better word, dies. However, I don’t believe, as seemingly does Ugandan MP and bill author David Bahati, that the way to prevent those infections is to kill anyone currently infected. He is not actually thinking like that. His bill is strictly a moral directive, not a public health one.

Most researchers now believe that HIV spread originally and most quickly through the heterosexual sex worker population in colonial sub-Saharan Africa before the turn of the 20th century. It was very centralized in that area for decades and didn’t become what was deemed a “gay” disease until the late 1970’s. In fact, according to The Kaiser Daily Health Report, in 2008, the year before Bahati first introduced his bill, the HIV prevalence among sex workers in Kampala, Uganda was at 47.2% versus 6.7% nationally and spreading fastest among women and girls.

The U.S. Department of State has of course denounced the proposed policy and continues to add its voice to the international outcry against the bill. The U.S., along with Britain, also continues to contribute a large portion of Uganda’s operating budget through various foreign aid entities. These facts have reportedly prompted the Ugandan Parliament to drop the death penalty portions from the most recent version of the bill. It’s a start.

David Bahati has stated that he has evidence that homosexual groups recruit children to be gay. To protect these children, he wants to “kill all the gays.” I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen the evidence of Joseph Kony’s forced recruitment of children to fight his war in Uganda. Morally, Mr. Bahati should focus on stopping that actual threat before chasing this ghost of times past.

Thanks for reading!

Marc Montminy
Director of Communications and Public Relations

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