In contrast to the recent backlash of the infamous Anti-Gay Bill, here’s some inspiring news: Uganda’s first LGBT Clinic has opened in the country’s capital. In the photo above, citizens stand in line in anticipation of the opening of the new facility. The clinic will be focused on treating sexually-transmitted diseases and the HIV/AIDs pandemic increasing amongst Ugandan LGBT citizens.
“Kill the Gays” Bill Contributed to Spike in STDs in LGBT Ugandans
This “Kill the Gays” bill proposed furthering the criminalization of homosexuality and legalizing the cultural belief of homosexuality being an immoral act. The current draft of the bill separates criminal acts of homosexuality into two categories: “aggravated homosexuality” and “the offense of homosexuality”.
“Aggravated homosexuality” includes having same-sex relations when one is HIV-positive, when one is a parent, with a minor, etc. The punishment for the “aggravation” is death. “The offense of homosexuality” includes any same-sex relations, engaging in same sex marriage, etc, which results in a penalty of a life-sentence in prison. Outside of these two categories, it is strictly prohibited that one assists or support any LGBT individual and may face jail time if one does so.
Because of the fear associated with punishment of the assistance of the LGBT community, many health care workers have been refusing service to LGBT people and in many cases, reporting them to higher authorities. Although the bill has yet to pass through Parliament, the mass media attention the bill received has made it just as legitimate as law in Uganda. In trying to avoid arrest, the bill caused most LGBT people to not seek treatment or lie about their medical history to doctors. This is exactly why the opening of this new clinic is critical to the health of the LGBT community in Uganda.
More Than a Clinic, But a Safe Haven
In addition to providing much-needed medical services, the clinic in Kampala will serve as a safe haven for LGBT people where they can avoid the stigmatization and mockery they had to face in other clinics. With the services of certified healthcare workers who support and dispute the rules of the Anti-Gay Bill, the patients will be treated in an environment without the added anxiety of possible arrest.
Moreover, the clinic will educate its patients in ways to be safe and protect oneself from sexually transmitted diseases. Activist Jay Abang of Freedom and Roam Uganda (an advocacy group for lesbians in Uganda) noted, “For example, how many of us use condoms on our dildos?” Because the government strongly opposes LGBT people (although they are categorized under the Most at Risk Populations), they keep information from them jeopardizing their health. Furthermore, the movement for gay men is much more apparent than that for lesbians so safety tips for them are often overlooked or dismissed.
The free clinic could very well become a hub for community-building efforts, health education, and safety for the LGBT community in Uganda.
Although both the government and the resulting bill in Uganda have antagonized LGBT people, the clinic is a symbol for the continuous strides that the country is taking towards acceptance. The clinic may only have a one-bed admission facility, but it’s presence of the clinic is significant, giving hope to hundreds of LGBT people all across the country. That this facility has sprouted in the heart of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, makes this small victory difficult to ignore and look past. The activists who opened the clinic as well as the patients who will benefit from its services are undoubtedly taking a strong stance in the face of oppression; the message — we are worthy of treatment, we are active agents in our own healthcare, and we intend to do more than just survive.