Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PRESS STATEMENT For Immediate Release: 6 February 2014 Doctors, scientists warn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a threat to public health Experts tell President it will have a ‘disastrous impact’ on the fight against HIV (Kampala, Uganda) Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill will pose a threat to public health if it becomes law by discouraging people from seeking medical care due to discrimination and intimidation, a panel of Ugandan and international medical experts has warned. The Bill would also create an environment of fear that will discourage health care providers and civil society organizations from providing essential prevention and treatment services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In an open letter released today to President Museveni, available at www.AHB-OpenLetter.org, public health experts say that higher HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men means that the proposed law, which criminalizes “promotion” as well as “aiding and abetting of homosexuality,” will sabotage the country’s efforts to fight HIV. Uganda’s rate of new HIV infections has been on the rise since 2005, unlike virtually all other East and Southern African countries. The release of the letter comes on the eve of a Caucus meeting of the President’s political party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), where the Bill will be debated. This harmful Bill contradicts public health, human rights, and our ethical obligations as medical doctors and as Ugandans,” said Dr. Stephen Watiti, Board Chairperson of the Community Health Alliance of Uganda (CHAU), and a signatory to the open letter. “Uganda must ensure that everyone, whether heterosexual or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, has access to essential health services, including HIV prevention and treatment. If passed into law, this Bill would dramatically undermine the fight against HIV—lives are literally hanging in the balance.” “Driving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities further underground is bad for their health, as well as the health of all of our people,” said Dennis Odwe, the Executive Director of Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) Uganda. “Our politicians should focus on real priorities. we are calling on the President to veto this Bill.” The President on December 28 announced in a letter to the Speaker of Parliament that he was seeking out “evidence” regarding homosexuality to ensure the Bill reflected a “scientifically correct” position. “We welcome the President’s call for evidence on homosexuality,” said Flavia Kyomukama, Coordinator of the Global Coalition on Women and HIV in Uganda. “The science could not be more clear, and we implore him to act on that evidence: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not suffering from an illness. These people are our sons, daughters, and community members. They must be treated with dignity and respect, just like any of us.” The letter states that homosexuality is not “an abnormality, a mental disorder, or an illness,” and that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are no more likely to be a threat to children than their heterosexual counterparts—in response to baseless claims made by the Bill’s supporters that the Bill will increase the protection of children. The doctors who signed the bill, many of whom have extensive frontline experience in public health in Uganda and other African countries, also raised major ethical concerns about the proposed law, warning that it will leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “in fear of arrest, violence and intimidation.” For more information, contact: Dennis Odwe, Executive Director, AGHA Uganda +256772637740 or +256702083227 ENDS

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