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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
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 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.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid