The brewing human-rights disaster in Uganda has thus far been blamed squarely on those who launched the current campaign of violence and brutal punishment: Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, Massachusetts ex-gay activist and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, the ex-gay International Healing Foundation led by Richard Cohen, Uganda ex-gay activist Stephen Langa, and Martin Ssempa, a longtime leader of Uganda’s religious war against its LGBT citizenry who is funded by U.S. evangelicals.
But as the crisis grows, so does U.S. foreign aid to Uganda: The State Department just promised Uganda $246 million with few if any human-rights strings attached. And so responsibility must now be shared not just by the masterminds of the campaign, but also by U.S. taxpayers. Let’s take a look back at how U.S. taxpayers like me — and many of you — became implicated in a violent evangelical war against Ugandan sexual minorities.
HIV/AIDS originated in Africa decades ago and spread — through heterosexual sex and local rituals — unnoticed by the continent’s inadequate health infrastructure until it emerged in the West in the early 1980s.
By the end of that decade, the United States was slowly coming to grips with the global scale of the disease. As medical knowledge about the disease increased, the U.S. and other Western health leaders began channeling hundreds of millions of dollars per year into education, prevention, and treatment across Africa.
From 1991 to 2001, Uganda enjoyed a substantial decline in HIV/AIDS prevalence -from 18 percent to less than 7 percent — through education which stressed a comprehensive strategy of abstinence, sexual fidelity, and the use of condoms.
Since 2004, however, U.S. PEPFAR funding in Uganda has been used not to support comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, but rather to discourage and prevent the use of condoms among those for whom abstinence or marriage are not realistic options. Condom shortages occurred as shipments were cut off.
Medical experts warned in 2005 that successes in HIV/AIDS prevalence reduction up till then had been due more to condom use than abstinence or fidelity education.
Sadly, the U.S. government continued to apply ignorant ideology instead of sound health science to its global health aid policies. By 2008, the number of people who received condom instruction dropped by half, from 3.6 million to 1.7 million, while the number of persons who received abstinence-only education increased from 3.6 million to 4.5 million.
Partly as a result of this shift, according to PEPFAR‘s own euphemistic self-portrayal, the decline in HIV prevalence (from a high of 18 percent) leveled off at 5.4-6.4 percent and has remained essentially flat for five years.
By 2007, Human Rights Watch and other international monitors were warning that U.S. PEPFAR funds were being misappropriated by Pastor Martin Ssempa, a member of the First Lady of Uganda’s Task Force on AIDS and a recipient of PEPFAR funds. A growing pattern of violent attacks against sexual minorities was traced to Ssempa.
Organisations that actively promote hatred of gay people and disseminate inaccurate information about the reliability of condoms are barred from receiving PEPFAR funds, but Ssempa’ Makerere Community Church continued to receive assistance due to support from U.S. evangelicals including Rick Warren. In addition to inciting violence and advocating life imprisonment of all LGBT Ugandans, the Makerere Community Church also disseminates information stating that condoms do not protect against HIV and has burnt condoms in public. As of 2007, the church had received $40,000 in PEPFAR funding to provide an abstinence education program.
In 2008 and 2009, federal foreign-affairs agencies budgeted almost $370 million per year for aid to Uganda. An additional $500,000-625,000 per year has been budgeted (PDF) for military training to strengthen despot Yoweri Museveni, who leads Uganda through rigged elections and exerts considerable control over the news media. For 2010, $257 million was initially budgeted for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment alone.
On Oct. 24-25, 2009, the Department of State signed an agreement to give Museveni $246 million in 2010 for health, agriculture, trade, HIV/AIDS programs, environmental conservation, and conflict mitigation.
So who’s paying for antigay violence and AIDS anti-prevention education in Uganda? You are — if you pay taxes to the U.S. government. You are funding colonialism by U.S. evangelicals who are committed to spreading sectarian religious intolerance, violence against gay Ugandans and liberal people of faith, and a rising incidence of HIV/AIDS among people whom the evangelicals deem to be sinners unworthy of life and good health.
Please urge Congress to cut off ALL federal aid to Uganda until that nation reduces its existing punishment of life imprisonment; cancels its plans for a death penalty; and restores HIV/AIDS prevention education which includes condom use for those heterosexual and homosexual Ugandans who are not abstinent.
Please also consider whether the entire U.S. PEPFAR anti-AIDS program should be put on hold until abuse of this program’s funds by abstinence-only fanatics and antigay ideologues is stopped.