Uganda’s activists answer questions on gay rights, sex workers and AIDS prevention

BY Nora Daly  July 17, 2014 at 5:57 PM EST
Editor of the Ugandan publication "Rolling Stone" holds the latest issue of his newspaper, which published the names and photos of 14 men it identified as gay. In Uganda, HIV-positive homosexuals are often afraid to seek treatment because they fear persecution. We're taking your questions on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention from Uganda's activists and human rights workers. Photo by Marc Hofer/AFP/Getty Images

Editor of the Ugandan publication “Rolling Stone” holds the latest issue of his newspaper, which published the names and photos of 14 men it identified as gay. In Uganda, HIV-positive homosexuals are often afraid to seek treatment because they fear persecution. We’re taking your questions on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention from Uganda’s activists and human rights workers. Photo by Marc Hofer/AFP/Getty Images

According to a recent United Nations report, it may be possible to control the AIDS epidemic by as early as 2030, and ultimately eradicate the disease altogether. But this goal will be impossible to reach without increasing treatment and prevention measures for the most at-risk populations.

Global health organizations have agreed that these groups include men who have sex with men, sex workers and intravenous drug users. In some nations, these populations face persecution, making them afraid to be tested or seek treatment. HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have been on the rise in those countries, while the same rates have been falling elsewhere around the world.

In Uganda, a law passed in February makes gays and lesbians subject to harsh penalties. Individuals convicted of homosexual acts could face up to life in prison. Many HIV positive homosexuals do not seek treatment because they fear being outed by their doctors.

The United States requires nonprofits to sign a pledge opposing prostitution before they can receive federal AIDS relief funds. This policy, in place since 2003, has been criticized by many nonprofits seeking to help sex workers, who claim that publicly opposing prostitution diminishes trust among that population.

As the International AIDS Conference prepares to convene in Australia, NewsHour reports on the persecution of these at-risk groups, and explores what steps must be taken to make an AIDS-free generation a reality.

We will be taking your questions for four activists and human rights workers who deal specifically with at-risk populations in Uganda:

  • Isaac Mugisha is the communications officer at Spectrum Uganda, an LGBT advocacy group based in Kampala.
  • Asia Russell is the director of international policy at Health GAP, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Daisy Nakato is a Ugandan sex worker and founder of WONETHA, an organization that seeks to educate and empower sex workers in Uganda.
  • Megan Schmidt-Sane is a former WONETHA staff member who now works for the sexual health and rights team at American Jewish World Service.

Share your questions in the comments section, on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #NewsHourAsks. You can also share questions by emailing onlinehealth@newshour.org. We will post answers from Isaac, Asia, Daisy and Megan here in the coming days.

This series was produced with the support of the International Center for Journalists.