It’s important to remember that the HIV virus is the enemy of all people — gay and straight alike, says Isaac Mugisha, Communications Officer with Spectrum Uganda Initatives in Kampala, Uganda. This commentary on the closing of a U.S.-funded clinic serving HIV-positive LGBT patients in Kampala represents his personal opinion, and not in any way the position of any group.
By ISAAC MUGISHA
I think it important to clarify my perspective, so that there can be no confusion about the level of disappointment at losing funding for the clinic, and also the vile nature of bigotry which has taken root of late in my region. I am wholeheartedly in support of maintaining a clinic which offers the laboratory and clinical capabilities which the WRP [Makerere University Walter Reed Project] has been doing. The valuable data and medical treatments which emerge from locations such as this are a benefit to everyone, everywhere.
HIV and other viruses are not racist and bigoted; people are. The viruses do not care whether one is straight, gay, bi, foolish or a victim of circumstance. Viruses do what they do.
Policies and prejudices which inhibit safe and full participation of minorities in a society only further the ill-fated conditions which viruses need to thrive. Everyone loses when this happens. Behaviours and peoples are driven underground and irresponsible behaviour (gay or straight, careless, foolish, egregious, or violent) contaminate otherwise safe and inclusive homes, families and environments.
It is a waste of resources to continue funding much-needed projects in an environment where the safety of those who both participate in or administer the programs are at risk. It is my understanding that until relatively recently, Ugandan society had become an example of how to address the issue of viral transmission (of many nasty little bugs); however, if the funds are better directed to a more stable location, where there is an appreciation of the mutual benefit of these sort of projects, and where those who participate are better supported by their communities, then it is a tactical decision.
There is too much at risk to allow the health of so many of us, everywhere, to be put in jeopardy just to placate a bigoted horde incapable of seeing the responsibility entrusted them. I only hope we are able to find better ways of mitigating the grief and suffering of those front-line individuals who are fighting a battle on behalf of many others, everywhere.
I truly hope that evolution of the discussion removes the ignorance, fear and foolishness that has created the ‘us’ and ‘them’ which has surfaced. The enemy is not the sons, daughters, sisters and brothers who are gay, straight, or bi who live in our societies, and who seek assistance from and participate in clinical trials.
The enemy is a variety of viruses that see us all as viable hosts and do not particularly care what colour, race, religion or socio-economic group we belong to. So, to the ignorant bigots I say, “Grow up.” I hope the clinic reopens and the conditions for minorities and health care workers improves very soon.
- First report: Uganda police raid U.S. military AIDS clinic, order it shut (76crimes.com)
- Ugandan Officials Raid U.S.-Affiliated HIV Research Facility (April 3, BuzzFeed)
- Uganda: Police raid US project that assisted gays (April 4, AP)
- Ugandan AIDS clinic hopes to reopen despite anti-gay raid (April 4, 76crimes.com)
- Uganda’s anti-gay law will make AIDS harder to fight (76crimes.com)
- Dispute over LGBTI clinics in Uganda (76crimes.com)
- Uganda’s anti-gay bill makes AIDS harder to fight (76crimes.com)
- 4 missteps that let AIDS continue to spread (76crimes.com)
- Draconian details of Uganda’s misguided new anti-gay law (76crimes.com)