Gay rights activists in Uganda have made final submissions on the UN report on Uganda’s progress in combating the HIV/Aids pandemic with a renewed call for the inclusion of homosexuals in national HIV programmes.
The call comes just a week after government released new figures suggesting that the HIV incidence in the country had risen to 6.7 per cent from 6.4 per cent in the last five years. At this figure, approximately two million people in Uganda are infected with HIV in total out of a country population of 33 million. In 2005, the infected population was just 1.1 million. The ministry of health declared that 7.7 per cent of women and 5.6 per cent of men are HIV positive.
The gay activists from MARPS Uganda Network (Most at Risk Population) and UhspaUganda told a national stakeholder’s validation meeting for the UN General Assembly (UNGASS) 2012 report at Hotel Africana in Kampala that exclusion of homosexuals from HIV/AIDS programming hampered country specific response in bringing down infections.
Every two years, Uganda compiles the United Nations special session Country Progress Report for UNGASS. UNGASS reports are a means for the countries to define feasible goals in relation to social issues such as drugs, gender, work, health and share their progress to the United Nations. Uganda’s report is due for submission on Friday this week.
In 2001 a Special Session was held to deal with the issue of Aids. During the 2001 UNGASS, the member countries established commitments to reduce the impact of the epidemic in developing countries by 2010. In the specific case of Aids, efforts have been made to form a link between the commitments made in the Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Under UNGASS, Uganda is also meant to report on 30 indicators of what it doing to combat the epidemic, including on MSM population and what interventions the country is doing. However in the last UNGASS report for Uganda 2010, Uganda indicated that it had no programmes for MSM because they were an illegal population.
On Friday, the gay activists told the meeting at Hotel Africana that Uganda can no longer pretend that homosexuals do not exist in the country.
The Uganda health and Science Press Association (Uhspa Uganda) told the UNGASS compilation consultants, Larry Odupa and Mathias Mulumba that MSM have rights and should be reflected in what Uganda is doing on their health.
Dr Geoffrey Mugisha of Marps Network said country guided programmes and reports need to work closely with MARPS groups to make use of the available operational research and data to guide interventions.
He noted that claiming that Uganda cannot do any interventions for MSMs was inadequate because a number of studies by various organizations, including the Crane Survey Report by Ministry of Health and Makerere University, together with Centre for Diseases Control suggests that MSM exist and have health needs.