In brief, two items of upbeat news from Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom:
Honors for Ugandan LGBTI activist in the U.K.
Ugandan refugee Abbey Kiwanuka, the chief executive and co-founder of the LGBTI activist organization Out and Proud Diamond Group (OPDG), was honored this week with the MSM of the Year award, presented during the “nOSCARS” ceremony of the anti-Aids organization NAZ.
The honor was in recognition of his work aimed at eliminating the stigma attached to HIV and to MSM (men who have sex with men) and the LGBTI community.
After going through a difficult time in Uganda because of his sexuality, including torture, Kiwanuka dedicated his life to campaigning against anti-gay laws, persecution, discrimination of LGBTI people and challenging the stigma attached to HIV, his organization stated.
In the United Kingdom, the group supports refugees from countries with anti-gay laws. It is also launching a new effort against stigma called “Let’s Talk! Stop HIV,” which seeks to reduce new HIV infections among LGBT by encouraging open discussions about a range of HIV prevention strategies and related sexual-health issues between sex partners, especially in black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
LGBTI activist Peter Tatchell told the NAZ awards event:
“Abbey’s activism is extraordinary and tireless. He does awesome work, not only for African LGBTI people and issues, but in support of the wider LGBTI struggle in the UK and worldwide. He represents one of the most active campaign groups in Britain, the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, which has helped countless LGBTI refugees. Abbey is a much-deserved winner. I salute him and his inspiring organisation.”
Marion Wadibia, chief executive of NAZ, said:
“Tonight we celebrate the passion and tenacity of organisations and individuals who, despite unacceptable but widely experienced circumstances, never get tired of providing excellent sexual health services to BAME communities and empowering BAME LGBTI communities.”
“I come from a continent where LGBT people in most countries are denied access to sexual health in the mainstream medical centres. This is because of the prevailing anti-gay laws and the stigma attached to HIV and LGBTI community. We have also seen government like Uganda closing some HIV centres, alleging that they are promoting homosexuality. Other medical professionals fear to offer sexual health services to LGBTI people in fear of being labelled as promoters of homosexuality.
“It’s a continent where many LGBTIs people are constantly blamed for HIV cases. However it is well known that HIV does not only affect LGBTI people but we take the biggest blame hence being denied vital services.
“It’s known that in BAME communities here in Britain, there is still stigma and lack of knowledge towards HIV, so when LGBTs come here, for example, they spend most of their time in their communities for support and when they hear HIV African rhetoric, they choose not to pay attention to their health status. People always ask; if I test and find out that I am positive, what is going happen next…???
“And because of such questions, that’s why we started a campaign called ‘Break the Silence!, Stop HIV,’ aimed to raise awareness of HIV by breaking the myth about HIV, in our communities.
“We have so far seen some changes i.e. on 17 October 2015, with the support of NAZ, we held an HIV workshop but at the end of the workshop, people were fighting in queues to get themselves tested. This has never before happened in our community, to me it was not a surprise but rather a miracle.
“With ‘Break the Silence, Stop HIV’ campaign, we believe that BAME LGBT perception of HIV in the UK will change. We are optimistic that these positive results will trickle down to other countries.”
Court: No one should be fired for their sexual orientation
In Zimbabwe, a Bulawayo man — fired from a government job for allegedly engaging in homosexual activity — won an appeal against his dismissal at the Labour Court. That activity was simply attending a Christmas party in 2013 that was hosted by the advocacy group GALZ (Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe). Labour Court president Justice Evangelista Kabasa ruled on Oct. 26 that Raymond Sibanda’s appeal against dismissal was valid, because no one should be dismissed from work on the basis of their sexual orientation.