Category Archives: Washington

Dear Secretary Clinton…,

I thought I would post a letter that I would write to Hillary Clinton about her recent remarks at NIH this week, the video of which can be found below. I love the woman, but I am sad about her lack of any reference to MSM.  The speech was discussing how the US can lead the world in establishing an “AIDS Free generation”.   Sorry Secretary Clinton, but in most areas, even in areas with generalized epidemics like subSaharan Africa, MSM transmission and infection  rates are on the rise, and an AIDS free generation won’t magically appear without targeted aid and prevention efforts directed towards these groups.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

While I applaud the United States’ efforts in leading the world to fight AIDS, and its strong commitment to ensuring an AIDS free generation through programs such as PEPFAR, I am extremely  disappointed by your complete lack of any mention of men who have sex with men in your global prevention strategies.

You mention microbicides which “give women the power to protect themselves.”  Yes this is true, but there is also a robust (and largely underfunded and underpublicized) movement to develop a rectal microbicide to give MSM (and heterosexuals) the opportunity to protect themselves.    You talk about “combination prevention” that the US will lead including: ending mother to child transmission, expanding voluntary medical male circumcision and scaling up medical treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.  There is no mention in this three pronged “AIDS Free generation plan” of addressing the prevention needs among vulnerable communities such as men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and transgendered populations.   While I applaud the State Department’s efforts, targeting male circumcision and mother to child transmission, while not addressing prevention among men who have sex with men will not lead to an AIDS Free Generation.

Dr. Frits van Griesvan of the CDC, in his article , along with numerous other studies, detail the balooning rates of HIV among men who have sex with men with India, China,  and several areas of Latin America and subSaharan Africa.  PEPFAR II, has a specific directive targeting HIV prevention at MSM, and it is time for our government and your department to take action and put this plan into action – studies show that current prevention efforts only reach 10% of MSM around the world who would benefit from prevention education and programs.   You discuss a story about the Tanzanian mother infected with HIV concerned about passing it to her child.  What about the man in Botswana who has anal intercourse with another man without condoms because homosexuality is illegal in his country, and he has no education on how to maintain his health since the subject is never spoken about?  You briefly mention the presence of such laws making homosexuality illegal, but never further discuss this topic in the 30 minute speech.

You do mention “embracing treatment as prevention.”  While this prong is not directed toward MSM specifically, it obviously can help MSM currently living with HIV and prevent the spread of the virus among their communities.  For this I applaud you.  However, be aware that many MSM who present at clinic for such treatment will be stigmatized due to their sexual orientation  if it is disclosed, and may not feel comfortable obtaining treatment at traditional treatment clinics due to barriers to care that exist for MSM populations including providers who are homophobic, stigma against MSM and laws criminalizing homosexuality.

I have worked closely with the State Department in my past work before attending medical school, as I was employed by several USAID contractors.  In my capacity working towards improving the life of women and children around the world, I have seen the impact the the US, the State Department and its subsidiary USAID can have on the lives of individuals through improving health.  Why not give men who have sex with men the same fighting chance to protect themselves against HIV that you state you are giving to heterosexual men and women through promotion of male circumcision?

Thank you,



HIV+ gay man to be deported back to Uganda

A Ugandan gay men who is HIV positive has been fighting to not be returned to his native Uganda.  The 40 year old man, currently residing in London, has made repeated attempt to prevent his deportation to Uganda, a country known to be particularly hostile to gay individuals.  Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Uganda, and a currently pending bill would impose the death penalty in certain instances, for example if there is evidence to show that the gay individuals transmitted HIV to others via sex.  The full article from the Advocate online cane be found here.  The UK government has denied that  the asylum seeker is gay, despite the evidence that he presented, including participation in a gay support group. All requests for asylum have been denied, and Mr. Said is set to be deported this weekend.

The anti-gay, HIV criminalization environment in Uganda is not new.  This past January, gay Ugandan activist David Kato  (pictured left)  was murdered for advocating for increased rights for sexual minorities .   In the US, there was controversy this past February when President Obama, spoke at the Fellowship prayer breakfast, as a member of the Fellowship, David Bahati , was the individual in Uganda responsible for drafting the anti-gay, HIV criminalization bill.

As this blog focuses on HIV, all of this leads to the larger discussion of criminalization of HIV.     Should an individual fear for their lives and not be able to live freely in their homeland because they have HIV?  In the opinion of this author, HIV criminalization serves no purpose.  Instead of educating individuals about HIV transmission and how to protect themselves, criminalization creates added stigma to HIV and makes it even more difficult for positive individuals to come forward tos eek the services that they need.  Criminalization also prevents individuals from being tested for fear of stigma. I do ponder that criminalization may be appropriate in instances where an individual knowingly transmits HIV to an individual, but I do not know enough legally about such a scenario to make an accurate judgment.   I do know that  I am sad that Mr. Said need to return to a country where he needs to fear for his life due to his sexual orientation and HIV status.