The Alliance is extremely concerned that the article that appeared in Rolling Stone will exacerbate an environment of social rejection against lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda.
Following the publication of the article there have been reports of threats and violence against people perceived to be ‘homosexual’ including against four of the individuals exposed in the article.
The Alliance is calling for the Ugandan authorities to publicly reject the article and to act to protect sexual minorities against violence, intimidation and threats and guarantee their rights as Ugandan citizens.
In a landmark case in 2008 Mukasa and Oyoo v Attorney-General of Uganda, the High Court ruled that damages should be paid to Mukasa and Oyoo, two sexual minority activists for violating their rights, torturing them and seizing documents.
This ruling confirmed that the rights guaranteed by Uganda’s Constitution apply to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But last year there were worrying developments that sexual minorities were being targeted, with the proposal of an anti-homosexuality bill. The bill was withdrawn after a wave of protests but the text not only included punishment by death but an obligation on members of the public to report any homosexual activity to the police.
“While this environment exists conducting HIV prevention programmes for sexual minority groups is extremely difficult,” said Christine Stegling, senior human rights adviser at the Alliance.
Uganda continues to experience a very severe and mature HIV epidemic. Around a million people nationwide live with HIV and AIDS. Gains in HIV prevention achieved in the past are seriously in danger as there are now indications that HIV prevalence has increased.
“Most at risk populations especially men who have sex with men, transgender people and sex workers are very vulnerable to social rejection, criminalisation and discrimination. All this seriously undermines access to HIV prevention programmes,” added Christine.
Despite the fact that these populations have a high HIV prevalence rate, in 2005 Uganda reported that the country spent $37.8 million on HIV prevention but only $79,000 was spent on programmes focused on these vulnerable populations. That’s around 0.2% of the total amount spent on HIV prevention in the country.
“Without providing an environment where people most at risk of HIV can come forward for HIV prevention advice, testing and counselling it will be difficult for Uganda to effectively tackle its HIV epidemic,” said Christine.
All this seriously undermines access to HIV prevention programmes.