Uganda Health Minister: Gays Will Still Get Care
KAMPALA, Uganda -- The medical workers who knew he was gay ignored him, attending to those who arrived after him as they openly gossiped about his homosexuality.
Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent gay activist in Uganda, said Wednesday he recently was forced to confront some nurses at a private clinic after they neglected to serve him in apparent hostility toward his sexual orientation.
Now that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed a new law imposing harsh sentences for gay sex, life is expected to become even more difficult for the country’s homosexuals, including getting health care. The Ugandan government has issued assurances that health workers will not discriminate against homosexuals, but some gays say they are not confident about that.
Uganda’s health minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that gays will not be discriminated against by medical workers despite the strengthening of criminal penalties against homosexuals.
Rugunda said that a clause which would have required medical workers to report homosexuals to police was removed from the bill that became law on Monday.
"We are saying that as far as health is concerned, they are at liberty," he said, talking about gays. "They should give full disclosure to their nurses ... We do not discriminate against patients on the basis of sexual orientation. That’s why we are encouraging gay Ugandans to take advantage of the health systems."
But Onziema, who is one of the few openly gay Ugandans, said he and other homosexuals have experienced prejudice when seeking health care.
"I once went to a clinic where I stayed in the queue (line) for hours and people who came after me were being served," he said. "You stand in the queue and they ignore you. And you hear them saying, `That is a gay person. We can’t serve him. We shall not serve him.’"