How the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could impair AIDS progress in Uganda

This post has the potential to be a more formal article, but for now, I am getting some thoughts together which are in addition to what I wrote at and the Christian Post about the topic.

In the earlier article, I noted that the Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, Edward Green, said that effective work with marginalized populations (e.g., glbt people) requires that health care workers develop trust with those they want to reach. Dr. Green said that, as law, this bill would drive gays and lesbians into hiding. While that would be tragic and have an impact on AIDS rates, the primary driver of AIDS in Africa is not homosexuality. Because of that, the rates of AIDS may not change much, although any change would not be beneficial. However, what might drive people away from interventions and/or treatment is the threat of being considered homosexual.

In the recent radio interview on Premier Christian Radio, Dr. Martin Ssempa said South Africa had the “highest HIVAIDS in the whole world” and attributed that to legalized homosexuality there. He also said that Uganda does not want another source of HIV. In a recent article, David Bahati, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill co-sponsor, said that homosexuals spread AIDS three times more than straights. Does this public health argument work?

Not so much. I asked Dr. Green about the AIDS rates and he said while South Africa had the largest number of AIDS cases in the world, there AIDS rate is lower than some of their African neighbors where homosexuality is illegal. For instance, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland have higher AIDS prevalence rates than South Africa (over twice as high) but homosexuality is illegal in these countries. The legal status of homosexuality, while important for human rights issues and practically, to fight AIDS in that population, does not seem to play much of a role in the overall AIDS rate in African nations.

Then, what does?

Dr. Green told me that 90% plus of HIV is transmitted by heterosexual behavior. Thus, focusing on gays misses the mark. If an African country does not address multiple concurrent partnerships and fidelity, not much good will happen.

So why do I believe this bill will turn the clock back on AIDS progress?

One, since politicians (e.g., Bahati) and ministers (e.g., Ssempa) are framing this Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a part of the fight against AIDS, I believe straights will shy away from getting educated, tested or treated because of the increased stigma of having AIDS. More than the stigma would be the fear of being reported to the police.

Two, I think straights may assume that HIVAIDS is a gay disease and believe that straight sex will be safer somehow. Given the fact that AIDS is really a straight disease in much of Africa, any movement in that direction could compromise the progress in Uganda. When supporters of this bill say they favor it for public health reasons, they are not working with all the facts, or thinking about possible effects on behavior.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill will create more stigma surrounding AIDS which in my view will prevent people from seeking treatement, education or testing. This cannot be a good thing.

8 thoughts on “How the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could impair AIDS progress in Uganda”

  1. Daniel,

    When the term prevalence rate is used, does it mean a direct percentage of the population?

    If that is the case, then 1 in 10 South Africans are HIV/AIDS.

    one in 16 Ugandans.

    one in 4 Swazilanders.

    These are terrifying numbers…controlling our fear and responding adaptively is very important.

  2. Thanks Daniel…

    I propose a post: Superstitious, or Maladaptive, beliefs that interfere with HIV/AIDS treatment.

    I am picturing a graphic, like a pie chart, with percentages.

    There is room for everyone in such a chart.

  3. South Africa has the highest rates of HIV deaths in part because of Thabo Mbeki’s seriously retarded belief that garlic and beetroot were better cures for HIV than retrovirals. How many deaths his conspiracy theory views caused is impossible to quantify, but it is no doubt huge.

  4. In the USA homosexual activity was criminal in some states up until 2003 when the US Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing consensual sexual activity were unconstitutional (Lawrence versus Texas). These was mostly a matter of individual state laws rather than an overriding national law. Though I believe it is still a criminal offense in the military but offenders are usually just discharged.

    Many conservative Christians (but also others) opposed repeals (many states repealed laws against homosexuality before the Supreme Court abolished the remainder). The 2008 Texas and Oklahoma Republican party platforms called for recriminalizing sodomy (fortunately party platforms are generally ignored).

  5. So, Ssempa is arging that this bill is needed to (1) stop child abuse and (2) fight AIDS? Are there no laws in Uganda to punish child molestors or those who knowingly spread AIDS?

    Why is it necessary to single out homosexuality?

    Has the USA ever criminalized homosexuality? If so, did conservative Christians ever favor such laws or fight their repeal? What has changed since then — and why?

  6. Ssempa does that.

    I dont think he doesnt know that the parallels he draws are actually wrong. He knows that. He has been in HIV work for some time. But, he is consistent on refusing or fighting advocacy for HIV work amongst LGBT. And, his reasons vary, but, they are consistent. He sees it as ’empowering homosexuals’

    That is the first time that I heard that argument about South Africa. But, it is actually included in the bill

  7. The real question is how do you fight an entrenched ignorance which will see your points as just a product of your own ignorance of the situation/culture/etc…?

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