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Anti Homosexuality Bill: Fear grips women living with HIV as US withdrawal of funds looms large

On Tuesday 21st March 2023 Parliament Passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023


By Patricia
Nakayima

Fear has continued to sweep through especially the Women living with HIV in Uganda with the impending withdrawal of HIV/Aids funds by the United States as the Anti- Homosexuality law comes into force.

The future of those that have been direct beneficiaries of the funds is bleak as Parliament on Tuesday May 2, 2023 reconsidered the bill and passed it with amendments as asked President Museveni pending his assenting to it.  

When the bill was tabled in parliament as a Private Member’s Bill by the Bugiri Municipality Member of Parliament, Hon. Asuman Basalirwa March 9, 2023 and later passed on March 21 the same year, The United States Department of State in Uganda issued a letter postponing the country’s operational plan 2023 (COP23) strategy presentation earlier scheduled for April 28, 2023.

On March 22, 2023 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said the adoption of LGBTQ in Uganda was devastating and deeply disturbing, and called on President Yoweri Museveni not to sign it into law.

President Museveni directed to have the bill recalled for review citing gaps amidst outcry of threats to suspend HIV funding should the anti-homosexuality bill be passed during the NRM Caucus meeting in Kololo.

It is upon this background that women say that they are not sure whether they will be able to survive without the funds which are used to get the antiretrovirals (ARVs).

Sumaiah Mahumud, a resident of Kampala was born with HIV and has lived with the virus for 25 years. Sumaiah is worried that her life and many others are at stake because of the bill.

“We need to continue getting medication like it has been. Upon hearing that we won’t receive any support if the president fails to agree with the west, it bothered me a lot,” Mahumud worriedly said in an interview for this story.

Asked whether she thinks the Uganda Government has the capacity to buy ARVS for all people living with HIV, Mahumud said no one should be lied to that the government can afford to.

“I don’t think our government has the capacity to distribute free ARVS in each facility. There are many and not all of us can afford to buy them. Everyone gets free ARVs and personally, I get mine from my facility,” said.

 Failure to adhere to HIV treatment, one is susceptible to AIDS and if not managed can easily die. Mahumud is worried whether they will be able to buy ARVS at an unknown market price.

“Some of us were born with this illness, we didn’t just wake up one day and wish to have HIV. So, there’s a possibility that these drugs will be so expensive. I doubt whether everyone can afford to buy them. It will be terrible because many of us don’t have money,she confessed.

The Bill proposes a death penalty for aggravated homosexuality and other heavy punishments upon conviction. The provisions embedded in the Bill seek to protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex and promotion of such acts.

Whether these threats shall come to pass or not, people living with HIV have expressed concerns, fearing for their lives and survival.

Gladys Nakandi a resident of Mackay zone, Nateete in Kampala says government needs to address the threats with utmost care to avoid mass deaths related to AIDS.
“ you go to a health facility and don’t find panadol, a basic drug. How about ARVs? I agree we need to preserve our culture but the person funding us is conditioning the Aid. Let’s have a candid discussion before losing lives. If this government can fight corruption so we have better health care, it’s what we desire, if not, let’s prepare our graves in time”. Said Nakandi.

Uganda receives $120M Every year, in donations to facilitate the purchase of antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV. According to the Uganda Aid Commission,1.4M people live with HIV. 840,000 female adults, 500,000 male adults while 88,000 are children. Only 82% of these are enrolled on ART and only 78% have suppressed the virus. Uganda records about 17000 aids related deaths annually.

Nakandi is worried that the number of deaths will drastically increase.

Through his twitter account, Anthony Blinken the secretary of state said that the law undermines fundamental human rights of all Ugandans, urging the government to reconsider its implementation.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We urge the Ugandan Government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation,” Blinken tweeted.

Western countries pushing Uganda into decriminalizing Homosexuality acts argue that the bill is a violation of human rights and would undermine efforts to fight HIV into the minority groups.

Comments (2)

  • mukalazi Charles Reply

    Interesting

    May 2, 2023 at 7:19 pm
  • Eve Reply

    Wow. This is a nice piece.
    Initially I thought Uganda could actually make independent decisions without interference from the west. But I’m now scared. I was looking at the oil report but thus bill can now not be implemented as we presumed. The fact that many Ugandans are living with HIV cannot be left unattended to. Some of them where born with it so you can’t punish them by passing the bill.
    I think we really need to put aside the fact that our culture is important, and look at the lives that are on the line if the bill is passed

    May 2, 2023 at 7:28 pm

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