A Message from Us on World AIDS Day

December 01, 2014

Kampala – Uganda

On the commemoration of World AIDS Day, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a network of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex [LGBTI] joins the Ugandan health and human rights campaigners to call on the Government of Uganda, donor governments and all stakeholders to ensure access to HIV prevention and treatment services support for all Ugandans, and close the gap through partnerships in particular with those at greatest risk of HIV infection.

“Other countries in East Africa were quicker than Uganda to scale up combination prevention and HIV treatment—their rates of new HIV infections have gone down dramatically,” said Pepe Julian Onziema, SMUG Programmes Director. “But in Uganda we have not seen that success—in part because government is stigmatizing and criminalizing populations that are in need of services, driving them underground, making them fear blackmail, arrest, and abusive treatment.”

In Uganda, the national prevalence of HIV is 7.3%. Among some populations, however, HIV infection rates are substantially higher, because of stigma. Men who have sex with men in Kampala have prevalence of 13%; sex workers, 35%; and fishing communities, 22%. (“The Case for more Strategic and Increased HIV Investment for Uganda 2015-2025,” Uganda AIDS Commission. January 23, 2014.) Uganda predicts a decline in incidence of newborn HIV infection.

“Higher HIV infection rates are not because of an abnormality,” explained Dr. Frank Mugisha SMUG Executive Director. “It is because these populations are more difficult to reach with services—hatred and bigotry create real fear of retaliation.” Ugandan research sponsored by the Ministry of Health shows that gay Ugandan men who reported experiencing homophobic treatment are 5 times more likely to be HIV positive than those who have never experienced homophobic abuse. (The Crane Survey Report, Uganda, 2010.)

Uganda criminalizes same sex acts between consenting adults, under the Penal Code Act’s colonial era anti-sodomy provision. After nullification of the Anti Homosexuality Act in 2014, which increased criminal penalty for same sex acts as well as ‘promotion’ of homosexuality’, Ugandan politicians are preparing a new draft bill. Leaked versions of the bill reveal a focus on ‘promotion,’ also criminalizing organizations that fund efforts to support the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Despite initial assertions by the government that criminalization of LGBT communities should not affect access to services, Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda has subsequently agreed that criminalization does increase discrimination.

“We need to reach every Ugandan with HIV treatment and prevention services,” Dr. Frank Mugisha added. “There is no time to lose, we must close the gap. We can end the epidemic in Uganda, but only if we demand realization of our right to health, our right to live in dignity, and our right to freedom of expression.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) calls for the following interventions by government of Uganda, donors and all partners:

– The Government of Uganda must not turn its back on evidence and human rights. High impact HIV prevention and treatment services must be delivered to all and harmful laws and policies should be eliminated.

– Establishment of clinics and outreach services where LGBT populations can be assured health services are provided in a non-discriminatory manner.

SMUG Press Desk

For more information please contact:

Frank Mugisha +256 772 616 062
Pepe Julian Onziema +256 772 370 674

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