News / Africa

African Gays Under Attack as HIV/AIDS Epidemic Turns 30

A member of the Ugandan gay community carries a picture of murdered gay activist David Kato during his funeral near Mataba, January 28, 2011.
A member of the Ugandan gay community carries a picture of murdered gay activist David Kato during his funeral near Mataba, January 28, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Thirty years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, stigma and discrimination continue to slow efforts to prevent and treat the disease. And more and more, gay men are becoming the targets in sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, for example, legislation had been pending that could have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

In its final day of doing any real business, the Uganda Parliament Friday did not vote on a controversial anti-homosexual bill. The bill had been widely condemned around the world, including by President Obama. While the official last day of parliament is May18th, much of the remaining time will be spent swearing in new members of parliament. The new parliament convenes in June and there is a chance that the bill’s author, David Bahati, could reintroduce it.

Life and death

UNAIDS uses the term “men who have sex with men,” or MSM, rather than gay. It says many men who engage in these sexual acts do not identify themselves as gay. UNAIDS also says transgenders are major targets of stigma and discrimination. These are people who do not conform to the standard male or female gender roles.

A leading U.S. magazine on HIV/AIDS, POZ, features a profile of some sub-Saharan African activists who risk their lives in promoting gay rights. POZ Editor-in-Chief Regan Hoffman is co-author of the article entitled Fearing No Evil.

Regan Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief, POZ Magazine
Regan Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief, POZ Magazine

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in hate crimes against gay people and we’ve seen them in the United States, as well as around the world. And the correlation between gay hate crimes and the risks to public health are something that people don’t understand,” she said.

In January, prominent Ugandan gay activist and school teacher David Kato was brutally murdered. He had been a leading voice against the anti-homosexual measure. About 80 countries around the world, including Uganda, have laws that make same-sex behavior a crime.

In 2010, a gay Malawi couple was sentenced to 14 years at hard labor after they announced their intention to marry. The judge told the men he wanted to protect the public from people like them. They were later released and told to have no further contact with one another.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are taken into custody after celebrating their engagement
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are taken into custody after celebrating their engagement

Hoffman said hate crimes and anti-gay laws only help prolong the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“HIV is not a disease that only affects gay people. It never has been and it never will be. It affects anyone who shares a needle or has unprotected sex. And the disease predominately still around the world is a heterosexual disease,” she said.

Hoffman said Uganda’s image regarding HIV/AIDS has changed from the time when the country was praised for acting early against the disease.

“Uganda was a role model for HIV prevention and care because they were aggressively treating it and treating people benevolently who had the disease. It was remarkable. I’m not exactly sure what happened in terms of Uganda’s reversal of rates. I know it had to do in some part with a change in public attitude and also governmental attitude about being open about sexuality and therefore sexually treated disease,” she said.

Fight or flight

She said creating a climate of fear around HIV/AIDS only drives the epidemic underground, away from prevention and treatment programs.

“Whether you’re gay or straight, the odds of you going to get testing for HIV or seek care for HIV are very low because to do so might imply that you are a gay person. And if that can land you in jail for life, or you could be beaten and killed, why in God’s name would you go and seek your HIV status or seek care?”

The POZ article also features Kenyan activist David Kuria of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, who’s picture appears on the magazine’s cover.

“He does not have an easy life. His life is at risk. I was worried when we wrote the story that his life would be in greater danger. But he said to me that, you know, others have died and he does not want to see this continue. And the only way to stop it is to stand up against it,” said Hoffman.

Kuria told POZ, “In Kenya, it seems that men who lead double lives do so because they do not believe they have a choice. It is either marry a women or risk being killed.

In the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, it was often gay activists who sounded the alarm.

“You know,” she said, “it was the gay community that really was visible and they were the most outspoken and most effective advocates and activists. And so people tended to equate HIV with the gay community in a negative way, which was ironic because it was the gay community that fought for early access to care, awareness, testing. And it was the gay community that saved, in fact, many straight peoples’ lives.”

Hoffman has been living with HIV for about 16 years. She says she let down her guard and had unprotected sex twice with a man she had known for years. The man did not know his HIV status. She says had she continued to heed the warnings originally put out by the gay community she probably would not have been infected.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs