Ugandan Scientists: “Homosexuality is not an abnormality” 4

“Sexuality is determined by biology (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry) and how one relates to others which is a function of psychology …Ultimately these functions are determined by genes and their interaction with the environment. What, therefore, constitutes normal sexual behavior in any given society (learned sexual practices) is a function of one’s biology, psychology and culture, the last three being dynamic and often changing. … Homosexual behavior has existed throughout human history including in Africa …Many Western-based evangelistic missionaries and Arabs penetrated Africa and influenced her people with their views on homosexuality. This continues today … Indeed there are undeclared homosexuals in Africa who many not even know it because their cultures never give room for the expression of such behavior. …”

The above are excerpts from the scientists’ report that the Ugandan press, National Resistance Movement politicians and their president are claiming lends support to the anti-gay bill.

It does absolutely no such thing!!!

In fact, it is 12 pages of completely supportive scientific finding to the homosexuality cause!

Someone, anyone, needs to read it and tell the world where His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni and his followers got it from this report that gays are “abnormal” and deserve to be jailed for life for being so, thus the Anti-Gay Bill must be signed.

Yours truly has failed to find it.

I know we live in an age of lazy or non-readers but please take time to read these 12 pages. It debunks the myths Ugandans have been fed for years about the issue of homosexuality.

Now, find here, the government-owned New Vision’s [deliberate?] misrepresentation of what the scientists said.

What on earth is going on in this country?

The Ugandan LGBTI HIV/Aids fight is joined by TASO 4

In the same week that the much-maligned Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament launched a civil rights booklet to educate Parliamentarians about legislating responsibly for all, The Aids Support Organization (TASO) also stepped to the plate and embraced the gay cause in the fight against HIV in Uganda. TASO apparently invited Spectrum Uganda (Spectrum), an LGBTI advocacy group, to a two-day orientation workshop, having got information that they had oriented health workers from Kampala Capital City Authority) (KCCA) under a project funded by AMfar.

There is no doubt at all that this is good news. With such notable organizations getting on board the program to support HIV/Aids programs in the gay community in Uganda, the central government can surely only follow.

Below is the (edited) report Spectrum have produced following the engagement with TASO:

Spectrum was invited by TASO staff for a two-day orientation workshop, having got information that Spectrum had oriented the health center 4 health workers from KCCA under our “GMT’ project funded by AMfar….

During this workshop, Spectrum used  community MSM and beneficiaries to give testimonies to the TASO staff about the myth that homosexuality is imported and doesn’t exist in Uganda… These acted as the messengers for the LGBTI community and assured the staff that actually they were born gay and weren’t influenced to be so. Some of  the TASO staff really didn’t know that gay people are actually real in Uganda. Initially some even left the room, on the [wrong] impression that Spectrum was trying to preach and promote homosexuality in Uganda.

TASO staff posed all kind of questions ranging from what gay people look like, what sort of sex they have, how they relate with the rest of the community, where they stay , how they dress, walk, if they have religions, believe in God, have culture/family, if they have real relationships, experience domestic violence and so on.

All the questions were answered carefully and Spectrum reports that the TASO staff came round to understand that gay people didn’t deserve to be hated or discriminated against, but rather needed to be embraced. During the workshop, one of the men having sex with men (MSM) helped  the TASO participants reflect on an often glossed over reality that is the root-cause of much of the spread of HIV in Uganda: 

“We sleep with you husbands, they call us in the middle of the night. In the morning we meet your sons and in the evening your daughters, and the following night yourselves. Yet when we come to health centers you discriminate against us not knowing that the results of this sexual network  affects you all”

TASO  members shared their experiences some of them as HIV patients and how they faced a lot of stigma during their coming out and it was evident that they really have no space for discrimination.

By the end of the workshop, the 20 counselors and doctors reached a consensus of serving LGBTI persons with no finger-pointing and agreed to be as friendly as never before and to even go ahead and train peer educators in order to reach all corners of MSM. They  agreed to procure lubricant as part of safe sex practices and condoms, do circumcision, give support and care to HIV clients and maintain the highest level of confidentiality as one of their core values, assist in other projects like VCT/HCT, do programs like moonlighting for sex workers at their bases, establish focal persons at all TASO centers for easy service delivery, participate and join us celebration annual calendar public days like IDAHOT, world Aids Day and involve LGBTI community in there IGA’s (Income generating Activities) and they welcome all kind of partnership from community organization…

All Spectrum’s services are free.  Spectrum can be reached at spectrumugandamission@yahoo.com or on +256 771 656 093

 

A word to the young gay Ugandans having random unprotected sex 4

A couple of days ago I learned about yet another Ugandan young man in his 20s who had died in Mulago Hospital. I didn’t know him but he was called Henry Lugoloobi, and was popularly known as ‘Junior.’ Reports reaching me suggest that he, too, succumbed to HIV/Aids complications.

You might recall that barely ten days ago, we attended the funeral of a young man, Abby Mukasa (Love) who had lost his fight with HIV/Aids at just 27.

We might be seeing the tip of the iceberg in these cases.

The incidence and spread of HIV/Aids in the gay community in Uganda continues to be the elephant in the room that, if not addressed with the seriousness it deserves, will have far-reaching consequences on the gay community … and ultimately the entire country.

This is one area, though, where everyone has to play a part, not just activists.

stigma24852986_nWe all know how HIV/Aids spreads. We know that unprotected sex especially puts one at risk. In Uganda, one hears of horror stories of young men having impromptu sex in bar toilets and all these seedy places (it is never clean, nice places, is it? Not that the venue makes a difference but there you have it) they meet. Yet, it is also true that gay boys are not showing much interest in health programs or adherence to using condoms.

The message, thus, needs to be blunt:

Activists can’t hold everyone’s hand; it is for grown-up people to wake up, smell the coffee and take control of their own lives.

Yes, ARVs now help HIV/Aids sufferers live long fruitful lives and HIV is no longer the sure death sentence it used to be 25 years ago – if you are a government minister or have tons of money to pay for your medication and care.

But if you are a struggling 20-something man out of Kampala’s slum areas, with a so-so education and dreadful work prospects, please remember that you  live in a banana republic where social attitudes are as Neanderthal as medical facilities are medieval. If your ass is broke, which is the case for most of you young men having raw sex in toilets and dark alleys after one bottle of beer that you couldn’t afford,  you are likely going to catch something lethal.

Then you will eventually end up at Mulago Hospital in a filthy, smelly, mosquito-infested ward where all the poor go to die because that is how the poor in Uganda die.

One or two of your relatives might eventually show up at your bedside and give some token help of fruit juices you can no longer hold down and platitudes. But it will be too late because you will have wasted a lot of  critical intervention time, refusing to be tested, refusing to accept the test results, or  pretending that you are fabulous and all you are suffering from is malaria.

The terrible conditions at Mulago, the lack of support from your relatives and the attendant lack of money to meet your medical needs will cut your already frail immune system tenfold. Then you will slip away, leaving behind a motley crew of shocked gay friends who will not know how to tell the world that you died of a preventable, manageable, sexually transmitted disease.

Finally, your embarrassed relatives will pretend to the world that they did all they could for you.  One of them will announce to the mourners at your freshly filled grave that you were much-loved, you had a child (whom no one will have heard of until then), they did what they could for you but the Lord had other plans in the brain fever that you died of.  And that will be it.

As the mourners walk away, one of your friends will ruefully remark about how the festivities to put your body into the ground cost twice as much money as was needed to provide you with the medical care that you never got.

Your fate is in your hands guys. Get tested to know your status.

And put a condom on it.

Blacksexploitation alive and well in Africa! 1

Check out this graphic website if you are not at work or sitting next to your mother!

It shows young black boys having all types of sex, most off it without protection, raw.

Exploitation or informed choice?

Exploitation or informed choice?

All the boys in those images are Africans, a number of them Ugandans. And, yes, they are all likely over 18.

Why then would I say that they are being exploited by whoever is filming these scenes when the players are adults?

Simple.

I am an adult man of, ahem, 38, well-traveled, more or less seen it all. It’s rather more difficult to manipulate me than a 24 year-old who has never been beyond the slums of Kawempe in Kampala’s outskirts.

These guys are as vulnerable as they are impressionable and will do anything for just $100 or the mere promise of it. But the consequences of making that money by doing bareback porn films are too catastrophic for them to appreciate, given their limited exposure.

As a friend from another forum pointed out, the camera work is quite good which suggests that these scenes are being shot by people who are experienced in what they are doing. For them to let these young naïve boys have bareback sex, water games and goodness knows what else for the camera is exploitation if not abuse. One could argue that it is even racist but I have no evidence of that so I am not going to make that charge at this time.

What can be done about this sort of abuse? Technically nothing since the boys are older than 18. But pressure can be put on the film-makers to make sure that protection is being used given the fact that medical facilities are nearly non-existent should these boys catch a communicable disease.

The people filming these bareback sex scenes have blood on their hands and pointed questions to answer.

I am not even going to start on the potentially career-destroying repercussions should the images become public which they usually do.

Enough said.

HIV/Aids claims a promising gay Ugandan’s life 5

You’ve heard me rant and rave about how Aids is killing more gay Ugandans than the Bahati Anti-gay Bill?

It is true.

The HIV incidence rate in the gay community in Kenya where they have done the studies stands at 35%. It stands to reason that it is around the same pandemic levels if not higher in Uganda where hardly any studies are being done due to government disinterest, paranoia and, likely, bewilderment and/or ineptitude where dealing with HIV in the gay community is concerned.

You have also heard me rant and rave about how the gay activist campaign in Uganda needs to retool its approach and stress the humanitarian health (read HIV/Aids) angle more than than the “stop the hate” one since even our most homophobic relatives will step up to the plate if/when we are sick? Events continue to assure me that my thinking is right.

Abby Mukasa (RIP)

Abby Love (RIP)

Only last week, I attended the funeral in Entebbe of a young gay man/lady of just 27. Yes, 27. S/he died of meningitis brought on by HIV/Aids complications. I knew of Abby Mukasa and spoke to him once or twice in places I cannot quite place in my mind at this time. At 27, he still had his entire life ahead of him and his death cut shot a promising performing career.

Here is the tribute from Abby’s confidant and carer, Stella, a woman whose selflessness knows no bounds and who is going beyond the call of duty for a cause that she doesn’t have to be involved with since she is not even gay herself. Uganda really needs a lot of people like Stella.

Stella’s ode to Abby Mukasa is rendered all the more poignant since there must be hundreds of HIV/Aids sufferers in Uganda’s gay community who are going through exactly the same travails as Abby struggled with – mostly alone:

*******************************************

“My CD4 count is only 47!” she confided in me.
“That is really very low,” I replied and stared at my confidant. “Why didn’t you go for anti-retro-viral therapy much earlier?” I asked.
“I was afraid of those medicines, very afraid,” she replied.
“But what are you afraid of in the medicines?” I shot back.
“People can talk and talk about you if they ever find you in that line for medicines,” she stated as a matter of fact.
“Let them talk. One day they will stop and move onto another gossip topic,” I replied.
“I also hear that the medicines for AIDS give you night-mares and you see things chasing you in the night. I also heard that you can lose sleep to the point of losing your head. Hmm!” she replied as she continued eating her lunch at a restaurant near the university.
“So tell me, now that you have started taking these medicines, tell me what night-mares you have had so far?”
She rolled her big soulful eyes up and down at me. She laughed. I laughed.
“Ah-ah-ah, tell me about your nightmares these last two weeks since you started taking the medicines,” I pressed on.
“No, I never got nightmares, I am a lucky girl! But then I take long to sleep. And I feel very cold. But then at night, I get night sweats which make my clothes wet.”

She started taking her ARVs too late to be useful. And then she deteriorated in her physical well-being and her body struggled to contain the immune-boosters. This reaction, and then that reaction and then one day, I had to drag her out of bed, onto a bodaboda motorbike with the support of a good friend and into a clinic. She was too ill to remain in bed.

Abby Mukasa

Abby Mukasa

At that point, I had also been buying her food every week for a while. She would send me her shopping list – mainly starch staples, animal and cereal protein, fruits, spices and apple juices of all varieties. She was a fussy eater: no posho, no white porridge, no passion-fruit juice because it stinks, no this not that. But she was also very appreciative of surprises: I loved that fresh mango, the millet flour with crashed soya was yum, chicken is better than beef… I started buying her food when the supply from the support organisation was suddenly dropped. She was struggling with her ARVs and she needed a good nutrition – common sense said so.

At the clinic, laboratory tests diagnosed typhoid, malaria, syphilis, and a UTI. Her CD4 count had dropped to 35 during the recent hospital visit. The dehydration was treated instantly by drip. Members of her support organisations were there to pay the bill. They came after some cajoling – but they did come and they did meet the bill for a week of treatment. She seemed to be recovering on the treatment.

And then there was a relapse… More illness – this time stronger than before. More pain. A pleading to stop taking the medicines because they were not working. This time the support organisations’ representation ferried her to Mulago Hospital. They posted representatives at her bed-post. Friends visited her bedside. Her family also eventually came to her bedside. She would slip in and out of sanity with such ease. At one time she used the usual address of Mummy-Stella and then she would instantly refer to me as Joseph. We took pictures. She said she wanted to remember this time of misery when she recovered. She asked me to burn her a music play-list. There were twenty songs on it. She planned to listen to this music as she lay in the miserable hospital bed, surrounded by other very ill patient. She told me she was excited about attending the upcoming Badilisha concert, and would do whatever it took to attend – even if it meant crawling to Lugogo! She made me promise to post all her pictures on her Facebook wall-page.

Within four days she was finished, gone, dead. At her funeral, they announced that she died with meningitis.

At her funeral they never thanked the people who informed me about her condition when the organisations were not aware. At her funeral, they never thanked the people who carried her onto the motorbikes. At her funeral they never mentioned the single mother of a lovely baby who cooked her food every day. At her funeral, they never thanked the person who was faithfully bathing his sick body, attending to her toilet needs, sitting her through long dreary days and long wee evenings, the person who tended to her even when it she was no longer cooperative. At her funeral they never thanked her friend who forcefully carried her to hospital, got us a safe doctor’s appointment, connected us to the wider support organisations, or did daily follow-up.

At her funeral they never thanked her friend who supported her regardless. You see, at her funeral, they named and thanked the support organisations and their representatives for the money and the other material support. At her funeral, I never heard acknowledgement of people that had no money but cared for her.

Uganda’s Christine Ondoa has HIV/Aids questions to answer 1

Aids/HIV infections in Uganda are rising by about 1.5% a year, bucking a trend that saw the country being touted as the model for HIV/Aids prevention and treatment back in the 1990s.

15,600 of new HIV infections in 2010 were among MSM: Uganda Government

15,600 of new HIV infections in 2010 were among MSM: Aids Information Center report

There is an ugly secret as to why the numbers are rising and will continue to rise as surely as night follows day:

The government of Uganda has totally ignored homosexuals, men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers in their HIV/Aids prevention and treatment campaigns.

First off, and for the benefit of many Ugandans who continue to display a worrying failure to understand the definitions:

Homosexuals are men/women who are only emotionally attracted to those of their gender. Men who have sex with men are … men who have sex with men, and they can do so even when they are not emotionally attracted to them, such as in prison where there is no alternative!

Then there are also men/women who are emotionally attracted to both women and men respectively.  These are called bisexual.

MSM can be straight, gay or bisexual. What unites MSM in Uganda is that they generally indulge in gay sex in secret (down low) unless they have come out to their loved ones and friends which is almost unheard of.

The fact of the matter is that, mostly due to the stigma surrounding homosexual sex in Uganda and much of Africa, homosexual men are still sleeping with and/or marrying women in large numbers. Their homosexual feelings don’t go away, of course, so they keep up respectable married facades and then sleep with men whenever their gay johns hit them.

If you are walking down the aisle with your man he is not gay, yes? If your son is walking past you as he exits the church with his new bride and you are shedding tears of joy, you can breathe a sigh of relief because he is not gay, yes? If your son gives you a grandson, he is not gay, yes?

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Your boyfriend, husband, son, could very well be a man who has sex with men or a totally homosexual man who has found a way of compartmentalizing his gay feelings to please you, his relatives or fit into society.

“So, what is the problem if my son, husband, brother is gay and he has found a way of hiding it, up to and including having a family?” I hear you ask.

Because he is nonetheless still sleeping with men – in secret. Because he is doing so secretly, the chances are that he cannot keep one partner since he gets his gay kicks in whenever he can, wherever he can, with whoever he can. Even if he could settle with just one male partner, the infrequency of their rendezvous usually means that the partner will have sex with other men. After all, who is going to sit around waiting for his married lover to steal time off, perhaps once every month or quarter, to be with him?

Prayer can heal Aids: Christine Ondoa

Prayer can heal Aids: Minister of Health, Christine Ondoa

Unofficial figures suggest that there are at least 500,000 MSM and lesbians in Uganda. Let’s assume that only 250,000 of them are male (should be higher but never mind). Let us also assume that just 50,000 of the 250,000 are sleeping with men and women. Now imagine if the 50,000 have two female sexual partners; a wife and girlfriend on the side. If they were to catch HIV from a male or female partner, try to gauge the multiplication effect this might have on the men and women they are sleeping with, and the men and women the partners are in turn sleeping with. How does 100,000 new  infections from just that cohort sound?

Precisely.

That’s why it boggles the mind that Uganda’s Ministry of Health is still showing no interest at all in making the spread of HIV/Aids in the gay community the priority it should be. How can an entire cadre of sensible, educated, knowledgeable professionals really hide their heads in the sand in the face of such a glaring gap in their HIV/Aids prevention and treatment program?

How come the government is ignoring the damning research its own people have come up with?

Uganda’s Minister of Health, Christine Ondoa, surely has a lot of questions to answer.

HIV/Aids is already killing LGBTI Ugandans! 9

I have a prediction to make:

The headline-grabbing lawsuit brought by the friends of  Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against Scott Lively in Massachusetts recently will likely not succeed.

The basis of the lawsuit is that Lively incited hate and violence against Ugandan gay men and women through proxies such as Stephen Langa and Martin Ssempa, ” for the decade-long campaign he has waged, in agreement and coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.”

I think Scott Lively cannot be proved to have incited any persecution of gays in Uganda. Yes, he has on various occasions said things we don’t like about gay cures and how gays are terrible for Uganda,  Africa and the world. That’s just his opinion and he is entitled to it. I believe  American and Ugandan laws entitle him to those opinions, too.

But, one suspects, that the American friends of SMUG who filed the lawsuit (SMUG could not afford such a lawsuit) knew this, and their real motive was a public relations (PR) one.  Observers can debate whether they used the most cost-effective tactic or not. I think their tactics have a place in human rights struggles such as the one SMUG is engaged in.

Which brings me to the real reason for writing this:

I think we should be doing more to move the debate forward in the gay community in Uganda. A commentator, Frank McMullan, recently suggested that I do that instead of peppering activists with questions. I think he had a point.

So, what do I think the gay rights struggle in Uganda should be about?

The gay struggle needs to augment the “We are here, we are queer/They are killing us” gay human rights movement, now the only currency doing the rounds in activists’ circles in Uganda and around the world, with an additional, serious, movement targeting the health and wellness of gay Ugandans in Uganda.

Frank Mugisha & Kasha Nabagesera

The faces of ‘Gay Uganda’: Frank Mugisha & Kasha Nabagesera

The  “they are killing us” activists have a place still. It is just that it seems that judicial killing of gays is all we are talking about and everything else, such as advocating for equal access to specialized medical care that Ugandan heterosexuals take for granted, is but a parenthesis. The reason for this might be that the current crop of Ugandan advocates already have enough on their plates. Given their schedules, it would be surprising if they didn’t.

There is thus a need for a different, medically qualified (or trained) arm to focus on the less ‘sexy,’, less headline-grabbing health and wellness issues.

Uganda needs a separate “HIV/Aids is killing us” message to push for studies to establish statistics, trends of HIV/Aids among men who have sex with men, and the general LGBTI population. It goes without saying that there are infinitely more  Ugandan gay boys (especially) who have died of HIV/Aids, due to neglect and lack of care,  in the last five years than have been killed by mob action or the law because they are gay.

We thus need to let the nascent movements trying to make HIV/Aids in the gay community in Uganda a hot topic, too, have room to breath because we can’t wait for the fight against “killing the gays” to be won for the fight against HIV/Aids in the gay community to get organized. Think of it as a two-pronged approach: health/public health/HIV AND Gay Rights with different protagonists leading each one since the expertise required is different.

If you sense an undercurrent of criticism, it is intended. I am of the view that, in the quest for the  “they are killing us” dollars and media space,  the “HIV/Aids is killing us” message  in our community has been relegated to an afterthought.

Yet you read that the incidence of HIV/Aids in Kenya (where information is more readily available and the fight against the spread of  HIV/Aids in the gay community more concerted) is 35% among men who have sex with men. It stands to reason that the statistics are grimmer in Uganda where studies are stymied by government disinterest and, little to no coordination in the community.

The only professional study I have seen on the HIV scourge in the gay community in Uganda, the CDC’s Crane Survey Report (2008/9) suggests to me that we are sitting on a problem so serious as to make the effects of David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay legislation look like a walk in the park. If nothing is done on the HIV/Aids problem in the gay community, the 1.5% annual rise in the gay infections being reported countrywide will shoot to 5% and beyond – as surely as night follows day.

The HIV/Aids problem in the gay community in Uganda therefore needs to be made a much bigger priority than it is at the moment. It would be fair enough for the current faces of  the “they are killing us” message to argue that they neither have the time nor the competence to fight every battle.

That’s  why the Ugandans willing to fight the “HIV/Aids is killing gays”  fight should be actively encouraged to step up to lobby Uganda’s government and anyone else they think will listen. Our friends in America and elsewhere should also be encouraged by the already established representatives of ‘Gay Uganda’ to organize PR exercises for that message, too.

35% of MSM in Kenya have HIV! 1

HIV incidence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya is as high as 35%, investigators report in the online edition of AIDS. Incidence was just 6% for bisexual men, but was 35% in men who only had sex with other men

This should be a terrifying wake-up call for every political leader in Africa but, sadly, it won’t because likely none of them is paying attention.The leaders that do, such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Cameroon’s Paul Biya, would see this report as excellent news.

35%???!!!

Oh my goodness gracious me!

Second money quote:

A total of 449 HIV-negative MSM were recruited to the study. Of these, 372 (83%) reported sex with men and women. The remaining 77 men (17%) reported sex exclusively with other men.

Yes, that means that a lot of men who have sex with men are also having sex with women.  The repercussions for entire communities are too dreadful to think about but there is little point in pretending that our leaders understand this … or care.

It boggles the mind that with these startling statistics, leading government health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa seem to be mute. What such numbers means surely can’t be lost on them.

35%??? And this is just in the one country where studies have been done. What about places like Uganda where no research in this areas is likely to be done in the foreseeable future?

The Sudanese need an education – fast!

The claims in this report are what you get when a government ignores education for a generation.

Money quote:

‘Ignorance, more than anything else, is responsible for viral transmission, it has nothing to do homosexuality or age differences. ‘If the government and political opposition are serious about tackling Sudan’s growing HIV infection rates, then safer sex education is the key.’

But of course!

If only they had kept abreast of world developments, the Sudanese government would have known this 20 years ago! Duh!

 

Transitions – Paul Weatherly 3

Paul Weatherly

News has finally reached us that Paul Weatherly passed on August 23, 2012 following a prolonged illness. He apparently succumbed to kidney and heart failure. I didn’t know it myself but he apparently didn’t keep it much of a secret that he was living with HIV.

Paul Weatherly  was a great  friend of Uganda and was quite instrumental in steeling the backbone of what was then a nascent gay movement in Uganda 10-15 years ago.

No, he didn’t promote homosexuality as detractors like to argue; he encouraged the gay men and women in Uganda who were trying to form pressure groups to fight for gay rights to keep going. One of the  Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) founders has intimated that Weatherly was “key in the foundation” of that organization.

Among the relatives that we know of, Paul is survived by an 87-year-old mother.

You have fought the good fight.