Ugandan police shut down U.S.-backed AIDS clinic for ‘promoting homosexuality’

By David Ferguson
Friday, April 4, 2014 10:11 EDT
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Tim McCarthy and Ugandan activists via Facebook
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Ugandan police shut down one of the country’s only clinics that treats HIV and AIDS on Wednesday on the pretext that the clinic “promotes homosexuality” and was conducting “illegal homosexual research.”

Buzzfeed and the Erasing 76 Crimes blog reported that plain clothes officers raided the clinic and took photos of everyone they found there, even as patients streamed out the clinic’s back doors trying to escape.

Colin Stewart of 76 Crimes wrote, “The clinic has been one of relatively few health-care facilities in the city that willingly treat LGBT people. It is run by the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), a non-profit partnership between Makerere University and theU.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP).”

Raw Story spoke via chat with videographer and activist Tim McCarthy, who is in Munyonyo, Uganda as part of a media team working with LGBT rights organization Voices of the Abasiyazzi. (Abasiyazzi is the Ugandan term for “queer.”)

McCarthy confirmed that multiple clinic workers were arrested and taken into custody on charges of promoting homosexuality, which under Uganda’s controversial anti-LGBT law, carries a possible life sentence. Some of the arrested, he said, were employees of the U.S. government.

The American activist — who worked with director David France on the Oscar-nominated ACT UP documentary “How to Survive a Plague” — said that conservatives in our own country are directly responsible for fomenting antigay hate in the African nation.

“The most important thing U.S. readers should know,” he said,  ”is that Americans fundamentalist Christians are responsible for stirring the hate here. Homophobia is the real import to Uganda.”

According to Ugandan activist Pepe Julian Onziema, government officials said they were closing the Makerere Walter Reed Project  for “conducting illegal homosexual research.”

BuzzFeed noted that the raid is poorly timed for Ugandan officials, who are currently hosting a delegation composed of representatives for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the humanitarian group USAID and the U.S. State Department. The group has been tasked with determining whether relief groups should cut off aid to the country in protest of its policies.

McCarthy said that U.S. observers who want to help LGBT people in Uganda can donate to the CDC, USAID or directly to Voices of the Abasiyazzi. He also stressed the need for LGBT volunteers to travel to the country to counter the tide of far-right U.S. activists who have aided the Ugandan government in codifying and enforcing anti-LGBT bigotry.

“We need gay volunteers too come here and help directly,” he said. The Ugandan government knows that harming or persecuting foreign activists is off-limits.

“I do feel safe because I am white,” he wrote. “It is my Ugandan friends I am worried for.”

Watch a video from Voices of the Abasiyazzi, embedded below:

[image of Tim McCarthy and Voices of the Abasiyazzi activists via Facebook.com]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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