Ugandan clinic denies ‘conversion therapy’ accusations

A Ugandan clinic at the center of accusations of covertly using donor funds to offer “conversion therapy” to turn homosexuals straight has issued a statement denying the allegations.

Dr. Peter Kyambadde (centre) visits lesbian advocacy organisation Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) in 2017 during efforts to set up a health drop-in centre. (Photo courtesy of FARUG)

The allegations were raised in an investigative report by London-based progressive news organization Open Democracy, which was also covered by both RightsAfrica and 76crimes.

Dr. Peter Kyambadde, Executive Director of the Most At Risk Populations Initiative (MARPI), said in a July 2 statement released on the MARPI website that conversion therapy is not among the services being directly or indirectly offered by the clinic.

“We wish to categorically state that anti-gay ‘therapy’ is not among the services being directly or indirectly offered by Most At Risk Populations Initiative,” Kyambadde says in the signed statement. “The claims made in the impugned publication are therefore false and are examples of unprofessional and malicious conduct intended to mislead stakeholders.”

Kyambadde says that contrary to OpenDemocracy’s report, the organization did not reach out directly to MARPI’s public relations team or directors for comment on the group’s findings before their report went to print.

He says in the statement that his organization is dedicated to serving key populations at risk of HIV, including gay people.

“Our team has worked and continues to work towards elimination of all barriers including: the deep rooted stigma, prejudices, discrimination, marginalization and social exclusion which are the leading causes of Key Populations’ failure to access HIV related services. As a result of our efforts, we have progressively changed the minds of various key stakeholders across the country into appreciating the key issues affecting Key Populations,” Kyambadde says.

The MARPI clinic statement is reproduced below:

STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE MALICIOUS FALSEHOODS PUBLISHED BY THE INTER PRESS SERVICE AND OPEN DEMOCRACY

Most At Risk Populations Initiative (MARPI) is appalled by the malicious falsehoods published by the Inter Press Service on June 30 2021 under the heading “Anti-Gay ‘Therapy’ Offered at Uganda Health Centres Run by Aid-Funded Groups.” The story is alleged to have originally been published by Open Democracy. The publication attempted to imply that we provide or provide referrals for anti-gay ‘therapies’ as part of our services.

We wish to categorically state that anti-gay ‘therapy’ is not among the services being directly or indirectly offered by Most At Risk Populations Initiative. The claims made in the impugned publication are therefore false and are examples of unprofessional and malicious conduct intended to mislead stakeholders. This is evident from the publication’s association of the organization with Pastor Solomon Male who has on various media platforms misinformed the public about the nature of services that we offer and criticized us for extending HIV prevention, treatment and care services to gays.

The publication further insinuated that Open Democracy requested us to comment on the allegations and that we did not respond. This too is a malicious falsehood as no one from Open Democracy or its agents has ever approached MARPI public relations office or any of our officers to respond to those allegations.

Dr. Peter Kyambadde, the executive director of MARPI. (Photo courtesy of Researchnet)

Most At Risk Populations Initiative has since 2008 been at the forefront among the pioneer organizations advocating for the creation of an enabling environment and spearheading friendly HIV services for Key Populations including gays across the country. These services are provided within the policy guidelines of the Ministry of Health and do not have any content as anti-gay therapy.

Our team has worked and continues to work towards elimination of all barriers including: the deep rooted stigma, prejudices, discrimination, marginalization and social exclusion which are the leading causes of Key Populations’ failure to access HIV related services. As a result of our efforts, we have progressively changed the minds of various key stakeholders across the country into appreciating the key issues affecting Key Populations and how we can use the human rights based approaches to create an enabling environment for them to access services which are of the intensity and quality required to create the desired impact. Our success as an organization and the country’s success in HIV programming for Key Populations is largely attributed these efforts. We therefore cannot be the ones breaking the pillars upon which our very own success stands.

It is very unfortunate when entities like the Inter Press Service, Open Democracy and individuals like Pastor Solomon Male resort to ill-conceived publications, utterances and unfounded attacks. Such do not help us advance understanding of the real problems that need to be solved. Rather, they confuse, damage the Key populations program and create more harm to the intended beneficiaries of our services and the general public at large.

We remain committed to working with all stakeholders, using the public health and human rights approaches to ensure that Key Populations access safe, effective and quality HIV services as a way of contributing to the National HIV reduction strategy which aims at reducing new HIV infections among these populations.

Dr. Kyambadde Peter,
Executive Director

Written by Kikonyogo Kivumbi

Kikonyogo Kivumbi is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association. Contact him at uhspauganda@gmail.com.

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