Opposition from homophobic Ugandan politicians has forced the postponement of a conference about how to combat the epidemic among LGBT Ugandans and other at-risk populations. 76Crimes reports that the Conference on Key and Priority Populations in Uganda had been scheduled for 9-10 May but was delayed in the face of opposition from government officials, including Minister of Health Dr Jane Aceng and Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo.
Conference organisers are now urging speakers and exhibitors to use the extra time to fine-tune their presentations.
The report says the theme of the conference is “Ending AIDS without exclusion.” It is aimed at improving treatment and other HIV-related services for Ugandans who are most at risk of contracting HIV infections, including sexual minorities, sex workers, drug users and fishing communities. Those people, referred to as “key populations” (KPs) or “key and priority populations,” are represented by the Most At-Risk Populations Network (MARPS Network), which has been helping to plan the conference.
The report says the delay was announced by Dr Nelson Musoba, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission in the face of opposition from several officials. The most outspoken among them was long-time anti-gay former preacher Lokodo, who objected to having people whom he considers immoral participating in planning an anti-Aids conference. He claimed that the goal of the conference is to promote “homosexuality and other dirty things.”
According to the Ugandan Daily Monitor, Lokodo said: “My duty is to stop anything that will position the moral fabric of Ugandans. I realised that there was something dirty when I saw leaders of the conference like Nicholas Opiyo of (the human rights-focused) organisation known as Chapter 4 and Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG),” Lokodo said, adding that the two are people of high declared position in support of homosexuality.
But Musoga gave a different explanation for the delay in the conference. He said: “The AIDS Commission had just postponed the conference to widen its scope. I am the one who has written postponing the conference because we want to increase its scope and make it better. It is only focusing on prevention but we want to include bio-medical interventions like elimination-of-mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT).”
Musoba said that Lokodo had contacted him raising a complaint about the Most-at-Risk Populations, who are the major drivers of the HIV/Aids epidemic. “The minister had information on a list of organisations not among those we were are working with. I will meet him again to help him understand the purpose of the workshop,” he said.