Furore over government purchase of ‘gay’ lube in Uganda


Uganda’s health ministry has attacked a decision by officials to buy lubricants that will be provided to men who have sex with men (MSM) to prevent the spread of HIV.

According to Daily Monitor, during a recent ministry quarterly review meeting, Dr Patrick Tusiime, the head of the National Disease Control Programme, revealed that almost a million lubricants has been purchased to the tune of 3 billion Ugandan shillings (R11 000 000).

The money did not come directly from government coffers but was provided by the Global Fund, a Geneva based organisation that works to combat HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

The budget item apparently came as a shock to Sarah Opendi, the State Minister of Health in charge of General Duties, who expressed her outrage to the newspaper.

“We have never approved any such lubricants or any such commodities to be brought into this country,” she said. “Homosexuality remains an illegal activity, according to our laws and, therefore, as Ministry of Health, we cannot be seen doing the opposite…”

She added that, “the Global Fund money is supposed to help in the fight against malaria and other diseases not buying lubricants for homosexuals.”

The country’s notoriously homophobic Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, also expressed his surprise at the purchase of the lubricants.

“What! This is unacceptable and incredible. We strongly denounce homosexuality as it is unacceptable and against our cultural values and conscience,” he said.

Under colonial-era legislation criminalising gay sex, the courts in Uganda may sentence anyone found guilty of homosexuality to life in prison.

The use of water based lubricants together with condoms is recognised as being among the most important means to prevent the transmission of the HI virus among MSM.

In July last year, Tanzania’s Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu banned the distribution of lubricants to MSM claiming that this would stop men from having sex with each other. She also claimed that the provision of lubricants was aimed at “promoting homosexuality” among young people.

The government went on to shut down 40 facilities around the country that offered life-saving HIV services to MSM, a move that experts warned would seriously hamper HIV prevention efforts.

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