Press statement

UNAIDS urges the Government of Uganda to not enact harmful law that threatens public health

GENEVA/JOHANNESBURG, 22 March 2023 —  Responding to the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the Ugandan Parliament, UNAIDS has warned that, if the Bill is enacted into law, it will have extremely damaging consequences for public health, by curtailing the human rights of people living with HIV and some of the most vulnerable people of Uganda to access life-saving services. 

UNAIDS East and Southern Africa Director Anne Githuku-Shongwe said: 

“If enacted, this law will undermine Uganda’s efforts to end AIDS by 2030, by violating fundamental human rights including the right to health and the very right to life.   

It will drive communities away from life-saving services, and obstruct health workers, including civil society groups, from providing HIV prevention, testing and treatment.   

The evidence is crystal clear: the institutionalization of discrimination and stigma will further push vulnerable communities away from life-saving health services. Research in sub-Saharan Africa shows that in countries which criminalize homosexuality HIV prevalence is five times higher among men who have sex with men than it is in countries without such laws.  

By undermining public health, this law will be bad for everyone.  

This law, if enacted, will hurt Ugandans. It will cost lives and it will drive up new HIV infections. We urge Government to not enact this harmful law.” 

The law would impose a penalty of life imprisonment for homosexual acts and the death penalty for so-called “aggravated offences”. It even includes a duty to report acts of homosexuality, with failure to do so punishable by up to 6 months in prison.  

The harmful Bill stands in marked contrast to a positive wave of decriminalization taking place in Africa and across the world, in which harmful punitive colonial legislation is being removed in country after country. Decriminalisation saves lives and benefits everyone. 

Although the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been passed by parliament, it is not yet enacted as a law and can, in the interest of promoting public health and equal rights of Ugandan citizens, be rejected by the President. It is not too late for this Bill to be rejected and lives to be saved.  

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