Ugandan officials wary of new LGBTI clinic

Ugandan officials are opposed to the new, first-of-its-kind health clinic for LGBTI people that opened in May in the capital city, Kampala.

Health minister Richard Nduhura
 Richard Nduhura, minister of state for health (general duties)

Richard Nduhura, the minister of state for health (general duties), who is a veterinarian, said the clinic isn’t needed,  IRIN/PlusNews reported:

“We don’t discriminate and marginalize when it comes to offering health services. When people come for treatment at our health facilities, we can’t ask for their sexual orientation.”

Dr. David Apuuli Kihumuro, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission, took a similar position:

“It’s nonsense for them [LGBTI] to say that they are always discriminated against in the provision of health services. I have been a doctor for over 40 years… I have never heard where a patient has been asked about his or her sexual orientation.”

LBGTI advocates have a much different perspective, of course.

LGBTI activist Pepe Julian Onziema
LGBTI activist Pepe Julian Onziema

Pepe Julian Onziema, program director for Sexual Minorities Uganda, or SMUG, said:

“We need our own clinic because we have had health service providers, and in some cases other clients at the health centre, attack us either because they suspect us to be gay or know that we are gay …

“We don’t feel safe. Some practitioners gossip about you when you are right there, increasing stigma. When I was about 16, I went to test for HIV and I was asked to bring my partner so we could be tested and counselled together. I brought someone of my sex and we were sent out and not catered for.  At this clinic, we want to protect our community from such humiliation, and stress and promote health and wellness.”

Uganda’s overall HIV infection rate is estimated at 6.5 percent to 7.3 percent, but two recent studies of Ugandan men who have sex with men estimate their rate at 12.4 percent to 13.7percent.  But they are not included in the official anti-AIDS strategy because homosexual activity is illegal in Uganda.

Simon Lokodo, the ethics minister who has prompted police raids that shut down two LGBT rights workshops, says he will investigate whether the clinic is being used to promote homosexuality.

“If we find out that it’s [the clinic] related to promoting the culture which doesn’t conform to our morals as a country, we shall instantly ban and close it,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. He said:

“These people [LGBTI] are doing their operations under cover – it’s not easy to track them. However, we shall not allow any social gathering, association, infrastructure or any activities that exist to promote homosexuality,” he said.

“If the clinic was for offering social services to the people, that would be good. However, this clinic is meant for giving assurances those who are involved in it [homosexuality]. It’s supposed to treat the ruptured backs [anus]. We can’t allow this.”

To prevent attacks on the clinic, its location has not been disclosed to the general public.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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