UNAIDS, a United Nations programme which provides information and support for those living with HIV and AIDS, has released a statement calling for the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda, Africa to be treated with greater “respect and dignity”. Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, recently referred to the LGBTQ+ community as ‘deviants’ in an interview with CNN. He insisted LGBTQ+ Ugandans “are not killed, they are not harangued, they are not persecuted” but added: “We don’t promote them… We don’t promote and flaunt homosexuality as if it is an alternative way of life.”
Following Museveni’s statements on LGBTQ+ people, UNAIDS said it is “concerned that the vilification of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Uganda could lead to heightened violence, stigma and discrimination against them and reduce their access to HIV and other essential services.” Despite Museveni saying LGBTQ+ Ugandans are not persecuted, there have been reports of anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the country, such as the arrest of around 20 living in a shelter for queer people, after which they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse. There are currently no legal protections from discrimination in the country, and same-sex relations are criminalised.
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, added: “Using offensive language that describes LGBTQ+ people as ‘deviant’ is simply wrong. Stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation violates rights and keeps people away from HIV testing, treatment, prevention and care services. The HIV epidemic can never end while some groups of people are excluded from health services…It’s clear that to end the AIDS epidemic in Uganda there is a need to build a more inclusive society where everyone enjoys the right to health.”