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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid