image of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Kampala, Uganda – Amy Fallon writes in Global Health that the new anti-gay bill in Uganda, labeled as “among the worst in the world” by the United Nations would “devastate” the HIV response in the east African country, activists warn. The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was passed by the nation’s Parliament on March 21st, prescribes life imprisonment for homosexual acts and the death penalty for “aggravated offences” such as those involving minors or people with disabilities. The bill also includes a duty to report same-sex acts and imposes up to six months in prison for the failure to do so.

Activists warn that the new legislation will essentially criminalize inclusive HIV programs and undermine the country’s efforts to end AIDS by 2030. Richard Lusimbo, national director of Uganda Key Populations Consortium, based in Kampala, told Devex that the “LGBTI community will be pushed into a corner” by the new bill. “This bill really pushes for policing, increased stigma and discrimination, but also reporting of LGBTI identifying persons, which will create a very precarious state where people go into hiding and it will be very difficult for people to even access services because they’ll be scared the doctor will report them,” he said. Lusimbo added that “presently no donor has cut aid, but we are concerned that if this bill becomes law, it will be difficult to operate, as that will be termed ‘promotion’ [of homosexuality].”

The U.S. government is the single largest donor to Uganda’s health sector. It contributes 32% of total health spending in Uganda annually, comprising 76% of all overseas contributions to the sector. Through U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. has invested about $39 million over six years. The U.S. has expressed alarm over the new bill, with national security council spokesperson John Kirby warning of economic “repercussions” for Uganda on March 22.” But the Ugandan government remains defiant. Uganda’s Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi, who is acting as a government spokesperson on the issue, told Devex that “our partnership with donors should not mean we cannot make independent decisions as a country.” He added that “we reject that blackmail.”

Source: Amy Fallon writing for Devex.
Cover image: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (courtesy Wikipedia)