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U.S. aid program to Uganda ends after anti-gay law signed

Agreement paid salaries of Ugandan Ministry of Health employees

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Dickson Mujuni, RPL AIDS Foundation, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade
Dickson Mujuni, RPL AIDS Foundation, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Dickson Mujuni of the RPL AIDS Foundation in Uganda working with youth
peer educators in the East African country. (Photo courtesy of Dickson
Mujuni)

The Washington Blade has confirmed the U.S. has not renewed a program with the Ugandan Ministry of Health that helps fund the country’s HIV/AIDS response after an anti-gay bill became law.

The agreement that fully or partially funded the salaries of 87 employees of the Ugandan Ministry of Health who support the country’s response to the epidemic expired on Feb. 28.
Reuters late on Thursday reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent $3.9 million on the program last year, but a U.S. official did not say how much aid the Obama administration has withheld. A spokesperson for the Ugandan Ministry of Health told the news agency it would “no longer be able to access money from a fund” to purchase anti-retroviral drugs and HIV testing kits.

A source familiar with the aid program told the Blade on background the funds sent to the Ugandan Ministry of Health were not used to purchase or distribute anti-retroviral drugs. The source added the expiration of the contract will not “directly impact” the “ability to deliver lifesaving medications in Uganda” through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Uganda receives nearly $300 million each year through PEPFAR to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the East African country. The Ugandan government in 2013 received more than $485 million in aid from the U.S.

“We did not renew these contracts because we wanted to have a dialogue with the government of Uganda about whether it should assume greater responsibility for core government functions associated with HIV/AIDS response, including these salaries,” said the source familiar with the Ugandan Ministry of Health aid program.

The program expired four days after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The Obama administration subsequently announced it is reviewing its relationship with the Ugandan government over the issue. The World Bank, the Netherlands and other European countries have postponed loans or cut aid to the East African country after Museveni signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

Dickson Mujuni of the RPF AIDS Foundation told the Blade late last month during a telephone interview from Kampala, the Ugandan capital, his organization has had to abandon plans to build a hospital because of the anti-gay law. Mujuni said gay and lesbian Ugandans have also gone “underground.”

“The community is very scared, very worried,” Mujuni told the Blade.

A coalition of Ugandan human rights organizations that includes HIV/AIDS and LGBT advocates on March 11 filed a challenge to the law with the country’s Constitutional Court.

The State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the law’s “negative impact” on fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other public health initiatives during a telephone call with Museveni on Feb. 27.

“It complicates our relationship with Uganda,” Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, told the Blade in a follow-up interview. “We have deep concerns about the law posing a threat to the safety and security of the LGBT community, but also the safety and protection of all Ugandan citizens.”

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Sam The-Genius

    March 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    no comment

  2. Norman Dostal

    March 14, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    sometimes savage people must be forced to treat others withe respect and equality-

    • El Dorado

      March 14, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      =====================================================================
      You can’t force anyone to respect another. You can only hope to force them to hide their true feelings if they hate you, be civil and keep their violence in check if their are consequences that deprive them of something they can’t live without like a paycheck, their freedom (Jail time) or execution for murder. Don’t delude yourself.

      As for equality, there is always going to be inequity in some form and eradicating it completely may not be possible. People still deal with some form of racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia from others despite laws against it even if it is subtle and being a target of violence including in the US is always a problem. We consistently have income inequality, and education inequality. Some will always have advantages others cannot have simply because of who they know or their economic resources.

  3. Charles Francis

    March 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    At some point, there must be an intersection between human rights abuse of gays with these vast public health programs–such as PEPFAR. Especially regarding AIDS where demonizing and jailing/assaulting gays is terrible public health policy. I am curious why the "anonymous source" in the article would not be willing to speak on the record?

  4. Charles Francis

    March 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    At some point, there must be an intersection between human rights abuse of gays with these vast public health programs–such as PEPFAR. Especially regarding AIDS where demonizing and jailing/assaulting gays is terrible public health policy. I am curious why the "anonymous source" in the article would not be willing to speak on the record?

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World

Dutch government formally apologies for forced sterilization of trans, intersex people

Gender Change Act was in place from 1985 to 2014

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Dutch government on Saturday formally apologized to transgender and intersex people who were forced to become sterile in order to legally change their gender.

The Gender Change Act, which was also known as the Transgender Act, was in effect in the Netherlands from 1985 until its repeal in 2014.

Education, Culture and Science Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven and Law Minister Sander Dekker last year on behalf of the Dutch government apologized to trans and intersex people who had undergone forcible sterilizations. The Dutch government also agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,633.68) to around 2,000 trans people who had sterilization surgeries.

A ceremony did not take place because of the pandemic.

Van Engelshoven issued Saturday’s the formal apology during a meeting with trans and intersex people that took place at the Ridderzaal, a 12th century building in The Hague that the Dutch government uses for speeches from the country’s royal family and other important ceremonial events.

“For decades we have had a law that has harmed transgender and intersex people,” said van Engelshoven. “People have undergone medical treatment that they did not want, or have been forced to postpone becoming themselves. Today, on behalf of the entire Cabinet, I make our deepest apologies. Recognition of and apologies for what has been done to these people and which has caused a lot of grief for those involved is extremely important and is central to this special day in the Ridderzaal.”

Transgender Netwerk Nederland in a press release said the Netherlands is the first country in the world to issue such an apology. The advocacy group notes the Dutch government last month began to compensate trans and intersex people who were forcibly sterilized, but adds the amount of money they will receive remains too low.

“The government has structurally disadvantaged and damaged transgender and intersex people for almost 30 years,” said Willemijn van Kempen, who spearheaded the campaign for the formal apology. “It is important that it now apologizes for that.”

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World

Botswana Court of Appeals upholds decriminalization ruling

‘Today is a momentous day in history’

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(Public domain photo)

The Botswana Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a 2019 ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country.

Five justices unanimously ruled sections of the Batswana Penal Code that criminalize homosexuality with up to seven years in prison “violated the right to privacy … the right to liberty, security of person and equal protection under the law … and the right to freedom from discrimination” under the country’s constitution.

Botswana’s High Court in 2019 unanimously ruled these provisions were unconstitutional.

The Batswana government appealed the landmark decision. The High Court heard the case last month.

Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, which challenged the criminalization law with the support of the Southern Africa Litigation Center, applauded Monday’s ruling.

“Today is a momentous day in history, a victorious win in ascertaining liberty, privacy and dignity of the LGBTIQ persons in Botswana and definitely, this judgement sets precedence for the world at large,” says LEGABIBO CEO Thato Moruti. “Moreover, a new dawn for better education and awareness about the LGBTIQ issues. I anticipate that more engagement with various arms of government will also set a trajectory towards a more inclusive and diverse nation.”

Pan Africa ILGA in a tweet proclaimed Monday as a “beautiful day” in Botswana. UNAIDS described the ruling as “a great win for human rights.”

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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