The U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the raid by Ugandan officials of an HIV/AIDS research and treatment facility funded by the U.S. Military and Makerere University in Kampala, the capital city. The program has been suspended.
The U.S. State Department released this statement on Friday:
“We are deeply concerned that a U.S.-funded health clinic and medical research facility, the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), was raided by Ugandan authorities on April 3, leading to the arrest of one of the facility’s employees, allegedly for conducting ‘unethical research’ and ‘recruiting homosexuals.’ While that individual was subsequently released, this incident significantly heightens our concerns about respect for civil society and the rule of law in Uganda, and for the safety of LGBT individuals.
“The MUWRP is engaged in efforts to improve public health and save lives. The Ugandan government is responsible for protecting all of its people, and attacks and intimidation of health care workers are unacceptable. The safety of health workers must be respected. We have temporarily suspended the operations of MUWRP to ensure the safety of staff and beneficiaries, and the integrity of the program.”
The MUWRP website added:
“Until we have greater clarity as to the legal basis for the police action, the operations of the program are temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of staff and the integrity of the program. We are working directly with the patients of MUWRP to ensure there is no interruption in their care.”
The raid comes at an awkward time. A team of U.S. officials from the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department, and USAID were in Uganda last week to review aid to the country in response to the new Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Uganda receives nearly $9.4 million each year through the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to run the HIV/AIDS programs at MUWRP.
Ugandan officials were also in Brussels last week as part of the EU-African summit, where they discussed the new law with European leaders.
The World Bank and some European countries have cut, delayed or reviewed their financial assistance to Uganda since the bill was enacted.
About 1.5 million Ugandans are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations program on HIV and AIDS.
Frank Mugisha, a gay leader in Uganda, said the workers at the MUWRP clinic were “without bias.”
“A lot of LGBTI people found it comfortable to go there for anti-retroviral treatment,” he said.
President Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986 and is expected to seek another term in 2016. Uganda now has some of the toughest anti-gay laws on the African continent, where 37 countries ban homosexuality.