To the obvious discomfiture of Uganda’s officials, Dr. Paul Semugoma made a tour de force of a speech at the 2012 International Aids Conference in Washington, DC in which he deplored the failure of Uganda’s government to take the issue of men having sex with men (MSM) seriously.
First the sobering research numbers:
“It is estimated that the adult male HIV prevalence in Kampala is 4.5 per cent but the prevalence estimates among men who have sex with men (MSM) is 13.7 per cent. Most MSM still have sex with women, many are married, co-habit with women, and have biological children. MSM in Kampala appear firmly embedded in the general population.”
Such high numbers of infection in the MSM population point to the obvious point that this group is having a lot of sex without condoms. So, Dr. Semugoma suggested rectal microbicides.
“Huh? Rectal what?” I hear you ask.
A rectal microbicide is a product, usually a gel, inserted into the anus so that it acts as protection against sexually transmitted infections during anal sex.
In Uganda, where resources are scanty even with the best will in the world, it makes sense, as Semugoma argues, to offer these microbicides in form of a lube. Since, duh, lube is required for anal sex, it makes sense to provide MSM with lube which also serves as a microbicide.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t consulted on the scheduling because if I had been, the follow-on speaker should have been an official from Uganda’s government.
In any case, Semugoma, who came out as an openly gay Ugandan a few days ago, has thrown down the anal sex gauntlet.
“The epidemic in Africa is characterized as sexual, and there is nothing about anal sexual, which is a big problem. It’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Jim Pickett, founding Chair of IRMA, which has been spearheading the development of rectal microbicides as a HIV prevention tool among MSM. “Creating something that is African-specific has been very key so that people know about anal sex and anal health.”
Yes, Mr. Simon Lokodo and your blinkered friends: gay men all over the world (and straight/bisexual ones, too) actually engage in consensual sexual conduct that often involves anal sex. None of your huffing and puffing will do away with that reality so you might want to put on your thinking hats and look at what to do about the implications for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fellow cabinet ministers, spouses who, lo behold, might come into sexual contact with a MSM who is having anal sex without any protection from HIV.
Over to you Ugandan officials. The ball is now in your court.