In his Monday statement reacting to President Museveni’s decision to sign off the new Gay Act into Law, the US President Joe Biden raised many concerns to justify his country’s apprehension towards the new legislation. One of these was a claim that implementation of the new law will diminish People Living With Aids (PLWA)’s access to care and life-saving medicines.
The US government has generally framed its response in relation to access to health services and medical care becoming constrained for certain categories of people in Uganda. Actually, UNAIDS Executive Director Eng Winnie Byanyima has equally corroborated the same narrative.
But through its Head of Public Head Division Dr. Daniel Kyabayinze, the GoU Ministry of Health has rebutted all this as nothing but misrepresentation. Dr. Kyabayinze says that PLWA and other categories requiring any form of care will continue accessing medication, in the post-enactment period, just like has been the case before. That no one will be discriminated against as has been insinuated by key Western leaders.
That in Uganda, access to health care is for all Ugandans regardless of who one is. That all medical practitioners in Uganda will continue to treat all health care-seekers equally including inmates or convicts on death row in the country’s prisons. That Ugandan medics unanimously treat their work as a calling and will always serve all people without ill will or hate for anyone.
Dr. Kyabayinze vigorously differed with proclamations that have so far emerged from Global Fund for HIV Aids, malaria & TB and US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). These wildly claimed in their joint statement that HIV positive Ugandans who happen to profess homosexuality or lesbianism will, going forward, be fearing to access health facilities to seek and access medication.
That they will either feel stigmatized or fear criminal sanctioning under the offences created under the new anti-gay Act. Without speaking very specifically, these partners, who have been part of the Ugandan response for decades, asserted or concluded that the newly enacted law will complicate the country’s overall HIV Aids response and the achievement of set targets aimed at eliminating HIV Aids altogether.
The latest Uganda Aids Commission stats put the prevalence of HIV Aids among gay couples at 13%. This simply implies that 13 in every 100 Ugandans that practice gay sex are HIV-infected. The threatened US sanctions, which predictably will be replicated by UK, Europe and Canada, could cost Uganda up to $400m or roughly Shs1.5trn which Uganda has annually been receiving under PEPFAR alone in support for PLWA.
Some of the provisions the Western leaders have resented in the new law include those which impose the maximum sentence of death for those who engage in aggravated homosexuality where the victim is a minor, PWDs and the perpetrator is a person with authority over that minor (e.g. a parent or guardian).
Dr. Kyabayinze’s views are corroborated by Dr. Stephen Watiti (chairman for the network of PLWA) who downplays fears that Ugandans living with HIV will most likely be forced to keep away from seeking and accessing health care simply because of fear of stigma, marginalization and sanctioning resulting from the new anti-gay Act.
Dr. Watiti says that even if any health worker intended to discriminate gay patients, there is no way their sex identify or orientation can easily be established because the same tends to remain a private matter between that patient and his or her partner.
From his medical practice, Dr. Watiti says he knows a few people who are gay and are HIV positive but the number of gay people living with HIV Aids is negligible; implying that there is no way mere legislation of the Asuman Basalirwa Act can significantly complicate the broader fight or country’s response against HIV Aids.
That, to the best of his knowledge, a good number of gays are people of means with capacity to fly out of Uganda to access treatment. The same Watiti admitted in an interview with Daily Monitor that Uganda is up for some hard times because those backing homosexuals are strong lobbyists who are capable of cajoling and swaying key decision-makers in Western capitals.
Watiti admits that 90% of the medicines being used in Uganda to sustain PLWA currently is from Western countries whose leaders have clearly indicated their resentment towards Uganda over the new Act. PEPFAR is such a major partner of Uganda when it comes to ensuring PLWA have adequate and qualitative access to life-saving medicines.
On his part, the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) Director General Nelson Musoba remains hopeful the apparent fallout between Uganda with partners like PEPFAR, Global Fund and others resulting from the Asuman Basalirwa law will eventually be deescalated sooner than later so that the HIV Aids programs are not disrupted. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).