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Funeral of Ugandan gay leader marred by hostile priest

Murder prompts appeal to black, LGBT rights groups in U.S.

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David Kato’s photo appeared on the cover of a Ugandan newspaper with a banner reading ‘hang them.’ He was later murdered.

American LGBT activists have joined a Ugandan gay leader in appealing to gay and mainline black civil rights organizations in the United States to take a vocal stand against conditions in Uganda that they say led to the Jan. 26 murder of a prominent gay advocate in his home near Kampala.

The activists spoke during a Jan. 28 telephone news conference in New York on the same day that an Anglican priest stunned friends and family members of slain Ugandan gay advocate David Kato by shouting at Kato’s burial service that homosexuality is “evil.”

According to a BBC News report, the priest, Thomas Musoke, declared before hundreds of people, “You must repent. Even animals know the difference between a male and a female.”

Reuters News Service reported that a scuffle broke out between Kato’s friends and nearby residents, who supported the priest’s remarks, prompting funeral workers to refuse to bury Kato’s coffin. Friends and family members completed the burial, Reuters reported.

Rev. Joseph Tolton, pastor of the Harlem-based Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church in New York and an organizer of the Jan. 28 news conference, said a coalition of mostly African-American LGBT organizations and faith-based groups are encouraging U.S. civil rights and religious leaders to speak out more forcefully on anti-gay bias in Uganda.

“It’s an appeal to the mainline black civil rights organizations that we’ve had really good conversations with,” he said. “It’s an appeal to black industry. It’s an appeal to the LGBT African-American community and then an appeal to the boarder black community. And it’s definitely an appeal to the black faith community as well.”

Tolton was joined at the news conference by Frank Mugisha, chair of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the group for which Kato served as outreach advocate and deputy director.

Mugisha arrived in the U.S. last month to work with Tolton and other U.S. LGBT advocates to draw attention to the hostile conditions in Uganda for LGBT people and to build opposition to a pending bill in the Uganda Parliament calling for increased legal restrictions against homosexuality, including a possible death penalty for certain sexual acts.

Kato was found bludgeoned to death inside his home in a village about 20 miles outside Kampala on Jan. 26.

The murder came less than a year after Kato sued a Ugandan newspaper for publishing his photo, name and address – along with photos and identifying information of other known gays – under a headline that said, “Hang them.”

Ugandan police have said a preliminary investigation indicates Kato was killed during a robbery and that the incident was not related to his sexual orientation. Authorities said late last week that they arrested one suspect in the case and were looking for a second suspect that they said had been living in Kato’s house.

Members of SMUG expressed skepticism over the police reports. Activists with the group say they believe Kato was targeted because of his role as a gay leader at a time when politicians and many news media outlets in Uganda were waging a vocal campaign condemning homosexuality.

His murder also took place as the country debates whether its parliament should pass a proposed law calling for tightening existing restrictions against homosexuality, with a possible death penalty for people engaging in homosexual acts. Human Rights advocates have dubbed the legislation the “kill the gays” bill.

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton issued statements expressing sadness over Kato’s death and called on Uganda to thoroughly investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“In Uganda, David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate,” Obama said in a Jan. 27 statement. “He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work.”

Clinton, in a statement released the same day as the president’s statement, called on Ugandan authorities to “quickly and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous act.”

Clinton noted that Kato played a leading role prompting Uganda’s Human Rights Commission to release a statement saying the proposed legislation against homosexuality violated the country’s constitution. She noted that Kato won his court case in a Jan. 2 ruling by Uganda’s highest court holding that newspapers could not violate privacy rights of gay people by publishing personal information about them.

“His tragic death underscores how critical it is that both the government and the people of Uganda, along with the international community, speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of Uganda’s LGBT community,” Clinton said.

Other groups participating in the news conference and making appeals for U.S. support for LGBT Ugandans were Global Justice Institute, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); GLO TV Network; BGM Network; GBM News; Metropolitan Community Church of New York; GayByGod.net; Rehoboth Temple; and The Fellowship.

Tolton called on LGBT advocates and their supporters in the U.S. to contact their representatives in Congress to alert them to the pending anti-gay legislation in Uganda and urge them to speak out against it.

He also called on U.S. advocates to consider providing financial support to SMUG, whose leaders he said are risking their own lives in their fight for justice for LGBT people in Uganda.

Tolton said online contributions can be made through www.GayByGod.net, an LGBT supportive faith-based website.

A press release posted on the website of the Embassy of Uganda in Washington, D.C. says Ugandan authorities believe “aggravated robbery” was the motive behind David Kato’s murder.

The press release says police are “actively searching” for the suspect still at large, who they describe as the “main suspect” and someone who was “formerly residing with and in the employment of Mr. Kato.”

“There are no indications that Mr. Kato’s campaign against the anti-homosexuality bill which was before Parliament of Uganda, or any other actions as a gay activist, were contributing factors in his death,” the release says. “The Uganda police [are] committed to thoroughly investigating this incident, as well as any other murder, and shall bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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The unvaccinated are 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox: health officials

Guidance updated to allow shots in places other than forearm

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U.S. health officials are celebrating data finding the monkeypox contraction is lower among people who are vaccinated.

U.S. health officials are celebrating preliminary data on the vaccine used in the monkeypox outbreak, which has led them to conclude eligible persons who didn’t get a shot were 14 times more likely to become infected than those who are vaccinated.

The new data, as described by health officials on the White House monkeypox task force during a call with reporters on Wednesday, comes as the overall number of new cases of monkeypox is in sharp decline, although considerable racial disparities persist in the remaining cases as Black and Latino people are overrepresented in the numbers.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, said during the conference call the preliminary data — collected from 32 states between July 2022 and September 2022 — provides an early shapshot of the effectiveness of the vaccine and cause for optimism on the path forward.

“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” Walkensky said. “These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection.”

Walensky during the conference call admitted the data is incomplete in numerous ways. For example, the data is based on information on individuals who have obtained only the first shot as opposed to both shots in the two-shot vaccination process. (The data showing positive results from individuals who have only one shot contradicts previous warnings from the same U.S. health officials that one shot of the monkeypox vaccine was insufficient.)

The data also makes no distinction between individuals who have obtained a shot through subcutaneous injection, a more traditional approach to vaccine administration, as opposed to intradermal injection, which is a newer approach adopted in the U.S. guidance amid the early vaccine shortage. Skeptics of the new approach have said data is limited to support the idea the intradermal injection is effective, particularly among immunocompromised people with HIV who have been at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.

Not enumerated as part of the data were underlying numbers leading health officials to conclude the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox as opposed to those with a shot, as well as any limiting principle on the definition of eligible persons. Also unclear from the data is whether individual practices in sexual behavior had any role in the results.

Despite the positive data on the monkeypox vaccine based on one shot, U.S. health officials warned during the conference call the two-shot approach to vaccine administration is consistent with their guidance and more effective.

Demetre Daskalakis, the Biden administration’s face of LGBTQ outreach for monkeypox and deputy coordinator for the White House monkeypox task force, made the case that for individuals at risk obtaining a second dose is “really important.”

“So we see some response after the first [shot] in the laboratory, but the really high responses that we want to really get — that you know, level 10 forcefield as opposed to the level five forcefield — doesn’t happen until the second dose,” Daskalakis said. “So the important message is this just tells us to keep on trucking forward because we need that second dose at arms that people haven’t gotten the first should start their series of two vaccines.”

Also during the call, health officials said they would be expanding opportunities for vaccines as pre exposure prophylaxis, as opposed to practices in certain regions granting vaccines in their limited supply to individuals who meet certain criteria or have had risk of exposure.

The Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, officials said, is also updating its guidance to allow injection of the vaccines in places other than a patient’s arm.

Daskalakis said fear of stigma about getting a noticeable shot in the forearm after obtaining a monkeypox vaccine was a key part of the decision to issue the new guidance on implementation.

“Many jurisdictions and advocates have told us that some people declined vaccine to monkeypox because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark often left on their forearm,” Daskalakis said. “New guidance from CDC allows people who don’t want to risk a visible mark on their forearm to offer a vaccine on their skin by their shoulder or their upper back. Those are areas more frequently covered by clothes.”

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