Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Homophobia & HIV


By The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, Vice President for National Affairs, Integrity USA.

On this World AIDS Day, Integrity USA recognizes and applauds the people of Uganda for their bold leadership and commitment to prevention of HIV and compassionate care of those infected. In the late 1980's, when many countries were afraid to talk about AIDS, Uganda did so under the leadership of President Yowero Musevene. He was supported by religious and civil society organizations and showed Africa and the world how to reduce HIV prevalence from 15% of all adults in 1991 to 5% in 2001. This success was based on a threefold approach: abstinence, be faithful, and the use of condoms (ABC).

Church of Uganda and other religious organizations were in the forefront of educating the community to save lives. The county helped to care for the 1.2 million orphans and the 1 million infected Ugandans, some of whom are still suffering. Funding for many of the medical, prevention and education programs came from the international community including the American government and American religious organizations, among them the Episcopal Church. Some of those funders and organizations feel compelled to respond to a recent debate within Uganda: how best to continue to decrease AIDS prevalence and educate the Ugandan community to protect itself. We see this as a healthy conversation in a world that is still ravaged and impoverished by HIV.

We are concerned the current Anti-Homosexuality Bill  will distract leadership and vision of the Ugandan government, along with those organizations that have helped to save lives, from the serious task of AIDS prevention and the care of the sick and orphaned.

Since 2003, encouraged by the Bush Administration’s anti-abstinence and anti-condom program PEPFAR, millions of dollars been spent in Uganda, however not in an effective manner.   Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, has said that PEPFAR's emphasis on abstinence above condom distribution is a "distortion of the preventive apparatus and is resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred."

is at an important crossroad in the history of its AIDS epidemic. After a dramatic reduction in HIV prevalence following an early comprehensive HIV prevention campaign, there are signs that the number of people living with HIV in the country may be starting to rise again. This is of grave concern not only to Ugandans, but to international partners who have invested time, compassion and resources over the past 20 years to support prevention and care efforts.

In recent months there has been a concerted effort by Ugandan Christians to link the spread of HIV to homosexuality. In March 2009, a conference funded by American Christian organizations and Family Life Network
led by Ugandan Pastor Stephen Langa hosted a workshop entitled 'Exposing the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda'. The workshop trainers included members of three American organizations well-known in US Christian circles:

  • Scott Lively, co-founder of the Watchmen on the Walls and author of The Pink Swastika, a pseudo-history book claiming that militant male homosexuals helped mastermind the Nazi holocaust
  • Caleb Lee Brundidge, a 'sexual reorientation' coach for the International Healing Foundation, a Christian organization that aims to 'free' people from 'unwanted same-sex attraction'
  • Don Schmierer, a board member for Exodus International, an umbrella body for Christian groups that seek to 'reform' homosexuals using Christian teachings.
The Family Life Network mobilized through churches across the country to deliver a petition to parliament calling for the introduction of stronger legislation against homosexuality. In October 2009 the Hon. David Bahati introduced a private-members bill before the Ugandan parliament titled the 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill'. The bill is aimed at increasing and expanding penalties for 'homosexual acts' and for all institutions (including NGOs, donors and private companies) who defend the rights of people who engage in sexual relations with people of the same gender. The bill also calls for Uganda to withdraw from all international treaties and conventions which support the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, introduces extradition arrangements for Ugandan citizens who perform 'homosexual acts' abroad, and includes legal penalties for people who fail to report alleged homosexual acts or individuals and institutions that promote homosexuality or same-sex marriage to the authorities. The death penalty is mandated for HIV-positive people who engage in sex with people of the same gender.

In October the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill was also introduced to parliament which
contains numerous provisions that contravene the right to equal protection and non-discrimination under Uganda's constitution and Uganda's obligations under international human rights law. Over 60 HIV prevention and AIDS organizations, NGO’s and Human Rights Organizations have condemned the bill, believing it to be counterproductive to reducing the burden of the HIV epidemic in the country.

This Ugandan and international concern is in regard to:

  • HIV testing and counseling, generally and among minors
  • Notification and disclosure obligations
  • Criminalization of HIV transmission
  • Criminalization of other conduct related to HIV/AIDS, particularly directed to the homosexual community and their allies in Uganda.
Although the Anglican Church of Uganda once opposed the death penalty in these two pieces of legislation, the church is now supporting the further criminalization of homosexuality. Church leaders have and are continuing to use the  1998 Lambeth Resolution 103 as a statement to support religious condemnation of homosexuality. As Episcopalians, although we may be divided over the scriptural interpretations of particular texts and disagree over the place of homosexuals persons in the life of the church, we stand united in opposing any misuse of the Lambeth resolution to criminalize and persecute homosexuals, their families, care providers and community. The intention of this resolution was to encourage dialogue, pastoral care and to refute any form of homophobia that directs violent words or deeds toward a minority community.

If there is any doubt as to the intention of resolution 103, we invite the Anglican Church of Uganda to consult further with all bishops who approved this resolution and to ascertain both their intent in passing this resolution and their present position on the Ugandan criminalization of homosexuality. We cannot support laws that are internationally and locally criticized as ineffective public health policy that will only make the HIV situation worse for Ugandans in general, and to use religious values to deny human rights that run contrary to the Ugandan Constitution, African and internationally agreed treaties and the legal and religious practices of the democratic community of nations.

Today we must ask how the international community can continue to support
Uganda’s heroic efforts in stemming the tide of this disease while condemning a law that will jeopardize the lives of LGBT Ugandans. Our hope is that Uganda will continue to be a leader in prophetic public health policy and in the care of all its vulnerable citizens.

On this World AIDS Day, we are bound together against a common enemy –ignorance. Integrity
USA been involved with the Ugandan AIDS situation for over twenty years through the work of its members in the USA and in Uganda. We are launching an appeal today to support the work of Integrity Uganda through the Hopkins Fund for Global Mission. If there was ever a time we need to support our brothers and sisters in Uganda and the chorus of international concern against these two proposed bills, it is now. Give generously.

Click here to make an online donation
or send your check [made payable to "Integrity" with "Hopkins Fund" in the memo line] to...

Integrity USA

ATTN: Hopkins Fund
274 N Goodman St Ste B267
Rochester, NY  14607

1 comment:

Ann said...

The word in the headline should be AFFECT not EFFECT.