HIV/AIDS Control Bill, 2010 and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 are a deterrent to access to health by sexual minorities in Uganda



Thomas Muyunga

Introduction:
Criminalization, media outing and a homophobic atmosphere caused by policy, patriarchy, masculinity, and religious-sponsored hatred directed at same sex practicing persons fuel discrimination. The two bills once passed will translate into fear of evictions, arbitrary arrests, brutality, expulsions and poor health seeking behaviour for same sex practicing persons. There is a relation between anti-gay legislation, anti-gay campaigns, homophobia and health seeking behaviour among 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 Anti-homosexuality Bill (AHB) 2009, the HIV/AIDS Control Bill, 2010 in its form and attendant criminalization environment in Uganda have 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 following the AHB, 2009. 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. After the AHB, these groups have registered less attendance at their safe spaces. Same sex practicing persons who suspect they are HIV+ ve fear revealing themselves for fear of denial of continued care.

Conclusion:

Criminalisation of same sex practices and criminalisation of intentional transmission of HIV tag same sex sexual practices as causes of HIV. This increases homophobia and 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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