The Ugandan Government has for the first time appointed a GLBTI advocacy group to a government health committee.
Uganda Health & Science Press Association (UHSPA), a registered GLBTI network of groups and individuals working to promote the health rights of vulnerable groups, was appointed to the country’s Heath, Human Rights and Gender Committee which is overseen by the Ministry of Health UHSPA lobby and advocacy officer Hasifa Nakiganda said the appointment was the right thing for the government to do.
“By virtue of Uganda signing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), it also agreed to state parties’ obligations to avail health access to all Ugandans without discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Nakiganda said.
Nakiganda said Uganda had been stuck at a 6.4 percent national HIV prevalence rate for some years because homosexuals had been deliberately kept off the health access radar, which had fuelled a wave of new HIV infections.
“Keeping homosexuals as a reservoir for HIV infection is not only malicious, but criminal on part of the state so this engagement will help in addressing challenges to HIV and health information, care, treatment and support for LGBTI persons,” Nakiganda said.
She said the relatively high HIV prevalence rates in the GLBTI community was due to the Uganda government denying them information on HIV prevention through punitive laws on the penal code.
A bill which would have seen homosexual “repeat offenders” executed expired in the Ugandan Parliament earlier this year but homosexuality remains a crime in the country and can be punished with up to life imprisonment.
Uganda has only one national policy that recognises homosexuals as a target group for HIV and health interventions – the National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
However, homophobic attitudes among health planners have so far hampered the roll out of the policy across public health infrastructure.