Human Rights Watch on Thursday in a statement said that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's promotion of homophobia and violence against men who have sex with men, as well as women who have sex with women, is hindering the country's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. HRW urged Museveni to repeal a law against sodomy and to end his "long record of harassing" lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (Cawthorne, Reuters, 8/24). In addition, HRW called on the government to integrate sexual orientation and gender identity issues into Uganda's HIV prevention and treatment programs (HRW statement, 8/23).
Juliana Cano Nieto, a researcher in HRW's LGBT program, said that the government's promotion of homophobia is "undermining Uganda's efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS." HRW said that the government harasses gay organizations, promotes discrimination and raids the homes of advocates, according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/24). Scott Long, director of HRW's LGBT program, in a letter sent to Museveni on Thursday said that the government's actions against MSM and WSW place the "health of all Ugandans" at risk "amid the HIV/AIDS pandemic." Long added that the government's "determination to silence any discussion of sexual orientation" is "devastating" to the fight against HIV/AIDS (Letter text, 8/23).
HRW's announcement came one week after Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of four LGBT organizations, launched a campaign titled "Let us Live in Peace." The group at a press conference in Kampala, Uganda, condemned discrimination and violence against MSM and WSW, as well as the "life-threatening silence about their sexualities in HIV/AIDS prevention programs." Martin Ssempa -- pastor of Makerere Community Church, which has received funding from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- on Aug. 21 organized a rally to protest the press conference, during which he called for continued action against MSM and WSW (HRW statement, 8/23). Ugandan officials were not available for comment, according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/24).
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