Sunday, 1 December 2013

UHSPA Statement

Uganda Health and Science Press Association is a registered LGBTI network of groups and individuals that works to promote health rights of vulnerable and minority groups in Uganda. It brings together journalists, lawyers, social scientists, minority groups, students and the academia to put an end to homophobia.

They also have a blog and a Facebook profile.

Today they issued this press statement:

For Immediate Release

Fighting to end AIDS in Uganda:

World AIDS Day Statement on Public Health, Sexual Minorities, and Gender Identity

Media contacts: Moses Kimbugwe Spectrum Uganda (+256783838259); Kikonyogo Kivumbi, UhspaUganda (+256752628406)

Spectrum Uganda • African Sex Worker Alliance • Freedom and Roam Uganda • Global Coalition of Women Living with HIV/AIDS Uganda • Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) • Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law • Rainbow Health Foundation Mbarara • Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) • Uganda Harm Reduction Network • Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA) • WONETHA Uganda • Transgender Equality Uganda • East African Visual Artists • Crested Crane Lighters


(Kampala) December 1 2013: Today, Civil Society Organizations at the front lines of the fight against HIV in Uganda released the following statement regarding HIV, public health and the health and human rights of people living with HIV and people at greatest risk of HIV infection who are sexual and gender minorities.

Uganda right now stands almost alone among sub Saharan African countries as having a mature epidemic with rising HIV incidence. This is the result of many factors. In particular, a lack of prevention programs that focus on the needs of men who have sex with men, transgender women, sex workers and other populations that are most at risk of HIV infection, and face greater risk of disease progression because of lack of access to health services when they are HIV positive. Importantly, stigma, discrimination, sexual and physical violence and homophobia have also been shown to cause increased vulnerability to HIV infection, and increased risk of accelerated disease progression among HIV positive people, because communities fear to seek services and are driven further underground.

Recent research in Uganda shows that rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men were almost twice as high as the national average of 7.3% and those respondents who reported ever having been exposed to homophobic abuse, whether verbal or physical, where five times as likely to be HIV positive compared with their peers who had never experienced homophobic abuse.

The legal and policy environment also significantly undermines the response to HIV and other public health priorities in Uganda—in particular the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed, would have a disastrous impact on access to essential health services and accurate public health information and would drive Lesbians, Bisexuals Gays and Transgender communities into the darkness out of fear of massive recrimination and further criminalization. Even discussing the health rights of LGBTI persons would be considered “promotion of homosexuality” and would be criminalized. Professional health workers and counselors would be forced to violate their basic ethical obligations not to discriminate against patients and not to break confidentiality—if information was passed to them about a patient being an LGBTI person.

The proposed HIV/AIDS Control Bill 2010 seeks to criminalise HIV, mandatory testing and disclosure and does not indicate a robust will to address the pandemic among sexual and gender minorities in Uganda.

However, there are important positive developments for which the Ministry of Health, Uganda AIDS Commission, and other partners should be congratulated. For example, the Ministry of Health is committed to establishing clinics for men who have sex with men and sex workers in Kampala, and is undertaking an epidemiological survey of key populations in order to determine their estimated population size and better define their unmet public health needs. Likewise, the 2013 Aide Memoire passed at the Joint Annual Review of the AIDS Response clearly defines that sexual minorities are among the key populations that require greater access to treatment and prevention services.

Therefore, while some policymakers and politicians are pandering to discrimination and bigotry among Ugandans at large, many public health experts and technocrats recognize that Uganda must invest in evidence based, human rights promoting interventions designed to meet the needs of LGBTI communities.

However much more needs to be done—from ensuring water based lubricants are provided along with free condoms as part of Uganda’s national condom policy to committing to collaborating with LGBTI communities in developing and rolling out new clinics for key populations as well as emerging research agendas such as efforts to complete epidemiological surveys.

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