In this message for World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle reflects on obstacles that anti-gay Christians create for people attempting to eradicate AIDS. The following paragraphs are the beginning of his latest RGOD2 commentary in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
By the REV. CANON ALBERT OGLE
Many of us who survived the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the USA will reflect on how difficult it was to walk through the cloud of stigma and discrimination as we reflect on World AIDS Day this weekend.
We lost many brave friends who taught us how to love fearlessly and safely. Straight allies and health care professionals began to understand LGBT more than before and that our love was good. How we cared for our partners and friends and created organizations that were open to everyone is an enduring tribute to the indomitable spirit of that difficult chapter of our lives.
For most of my 30s, I worked professionally in the AIDS world and it was full of death and dying and winning hearts and minds in the battle for inclusion and access to services for everyone from cramped but comfortable offices in Los Angeles and Pasadena. Although this was a difficult time, nothing I experienced compares to the challenges facing LGBT people in 76 countries where it is still illegal to be LGBT.
In some places, LGBT people are 300% more likely to get AIDS because they do not have equal access to information and prevention, testing and health services. A recent report issued MSM Global Forum gives some hard data on the fierce battle that is raging in countries all over the globe. Stigma and discrimination remain as deadly as the virus itself.
At least we were not tortured
One young African HIV expert, university educated and working on MSM programs (Men who have Sex with Men) recently returned from the International AIDS Conference in Washington (he was sponsored by St. Paul’s Foundation and amFAR) was arrested and tortured by the police. It is illegal to be LGBT in his country and although his mission was to educate and save lives, his own life was threatened for merely practicing his vocation.
Another straight woman ally wants to extend her home health care program to LGBT people in Uganda, but the threat of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (which will require her to report any known homosexuals or face jail time herself) means she cannot do the right thing. As a Christian, she is following Jesus’ example of loving and healing anyone who crosses her path, but her government may soon make it an offense for hundreds of thousands of caregivers and even parents to be subjected to mandatory reporting of known LGBT people.
Uganda claims to be a Christian nation but deliberately isolating one section of the community from another and making it a crime to assist them is a pernicious form of evil that no religious community can support. These are the same tactics used to divide Hutu and Tutsi, Jews and “real” Germans, that [are precursors to] genocide.
When a country legislates for citizens by deliberately isolating and demonizing other citizens, that country is in serious peril. Not only will that country fail in its attempts to decrease numbers of people infected with AIDS, but it will inevitably become a seedbed for civil war.
Uganda is full of small ethnic communities that have periodically turned on each other and within living history, a million Ugandans perished in a civil war and 600,000 Ugandan Asians were forced to leave their homes by Idi Amin over six weeks! The Ugandan economy has never fully recovered from this ethnic cleansing. Every family has been tragically touched by the AIDS epidemic, but obviously Uganda has not learned from its own history and the negative effects of any form of stigma on sound public health and a robust economy. There is a recurring madness in Uganda and it is about to have another episode.
The role of Americans
Uganda, however, is not alone. She helps us see the other hidden epidemic of rampant homophobia that is happening all over the world. Deliberate misinformation and religiously motivated propaganda, heavily funded by American Religious Right churches and development organizations, is killing people too. While hiding behind AIDS orphan programs and outreach to the sick, they appeal to their anti-gay donors in the USA to keep up the pressure on governments to pass draconian anti-gay laws.
Even the president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, a highly respected organization doing a lot of good all over the world, spoke during a meeting at Georgetown University during the World AIDS Conference about “protecting marriage” (code phrase for an imagined gay agenda) and the need to promote “abstinence only” programs around the world to stop the spread of HIV. Some faculty at Georgetown were so appalled, they walked out.
In the face of scientific evidence that this policy has tragically failed, how can we as American donors still financially support organizations that are deliberately misinforming millions of vulnerable people? Standing beside pastor Rick Warren (who has still not come clean on his position on decriminalization of LGBT people or “ex-gay” therapy), these titans of American overseas development work give Ugandans both a false sense of security and more tragically, the moral framework to punish homosexuals at any cost.
Speaking at a COMPASS to Compassion conference last year at Union Theological Seminary, Jeff Sharlet’s theme “The Sex Tourism of the American Fundamentalism” reminded us that Rick Warren will say and do one thing in the USA while doing something else in another country that would be totally inappropriate at home. [See video of his speech Part 1 (12:07 minutes) and Part 2 (12:09 minutes).]
I would love to introduce my tortured AIDS prevention specialist (who had to flee for his life) to the president of World Vision and pastor Warren. [That refugee’s] purpose-driven life was significantly influenced by their ministries in Africa. …
Read the full commentary in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
- HIV-positive activist to Uganda: Stop impeding AIDS battle (76crimes.com)
- Presidential Proclamation for World AIDS Day 2012 (stefanhippler.com)
- Over a million speak out against Uganda’s anti-gay bill (76crimes.com)
- World AIDS Day Hits Home Hard This Year. (richmondsajini.wordpress.com)
- U.S. support for ‘architect of homophobia in East Africa’ (commentary by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle) (76crimes.com)