Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 as a deterrent to access to health by sexual minorities in Uganda



 Iga Peter, Thomas M.

Introduction:
 Anti-homosexuality campaigns in Uganda are in form of criminalization, media outing and a homophobic atmosphere fueled by policy, patriarchy, masculinity, and religious-sponsored hatred for same sex practicing persons. This is translated into fear of evictions, arbitrary arrests, expulsions and poor health seeking behaviour for same sex practicing persons. This report shows the relation between the two year anti-gay campaign and homophobia on health seeking behaviour of same sex practicing Ugandans.

Methods:
Anecdotal recollections, a review of medical forms, registers and attendance lists show that the National STD Unit and sexual minority Groups have been the means for strengthening hegemony among sexual minorities and a health seeking strategy. The National STD Unit started providing health care services to same sex practicing Ugandans in 2008. By March 2009, 120 Transgender persons (18-27years), 300 MSM (20-45years), 45 Bi-sexual men (22-55 years), 33 bisexual females (18-37 years) and13 key sexual Minority groups in Uganda with over 200 registered members (110 males (17-55years):90 females (18-37 years)) had been contacted. The Unit uses both static facility and outreach based approaches in providing heath care services. 24 safe spaces are used for HIV/STI testing, Information, education and Communication on safer lifestyles.

Results:
The fall out from the Anti-homosexuality Bill 2009 and attendant criminalization environment in Uganda have had a negative effect on demand and provision of health services where it comes to same sex practicing persons in Uganda. Attendances at the National STD Unit dwindled continuously from 05 attendances on average from 2008 -2009 per week to 1 per week in 2010. This has been the same case for empowered sexual minority groups which used the outreach safe spaces for; meeting same sex practicing leaders; dialogue on same sex practices; testing of HIV; treatment for those who had ailments and; counselling/guidance. These particular groups before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 were a means of mobilising bigger numbers of sexual minorities with an average of 30 LGBTI persons attended in all 24 spaces. But, after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 the numbers have continued dwindling to 12 LGBTI persons on average in the 24 spaces.

Conclusion:

Criminalisation surrounding same sex practices in Uganda, increases homophobia. It negatively influences demand and provision of health care services where sexual minorities are involved. Criminalisation scares away otherwise willing service providers as well for fear of being labeled homosexual recruiters in Uganda.

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