elephant in the room

How Come Hillary Clinton Didn’t Mention Uganda Once During Her AIDS Speech?

Curiously missing from Hillary Clinton‘s World AIDS Day remarks condemning nations that criminalize homosexuality? Any mention of the word Uganda.

In comments made yesterday ahead of today’s day of remembrance, the secretary of state — after giving a nod to President Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS in Africa — specifically argued America’s PEPFAR funding should not go to countries that persecute queers. But while she managed to name drop South Africa (where she visited a clinic), nowhere was there a mention of Uganda, where LGBTs face the biggest immediate threat of state-sponsored murder.


Later this week, Ambassador Goosby will present the five-year strategy for the future of PEPFAR outlining the important role that PEPFAR will play in transitioning from emergency response to sustainable health systems that help meet the broad medical needs of people with HIV and the communities in which they live. In its next phase, PEPFAR programs will support a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach in many countries to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and get services to people at earlier stages.

Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it, but also to combat discrimination more broadly. We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards – (applause) – on behalf of human rights. But it is also a step that undermines the effectiveness of efforts to fight the disease worldwide.

But the State Department is, supposedly, working behind the scenes:

Many HIV/AIDS activists felt that Goosby’s comments signaled a certain tone-deafness by the Obama administration to the Ugandan issue. But one person who consults regularly with the Department of State said the agency has been heavily engaged with Ugandan officials regarding the fate of the legislation.

“They have been working for several weeks behind the scenes at a senior level within the department to determine what the actual facts are and what the likelihood is of this bill becoming law,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The source said the diplomatic goal was to strike a forceful tone that stopped short of shaming President Museveni, who has yet to take an official stand on the legislation, which was introduced by a lawmaker in his own party, member of parliament David Bahati.

“They are trying to proceed in a way that gives them some private leverage but also acknowledges that Secretary Clinton has an obligation to speak out on human rights issues in her capacity as our top international diplomat,” said the source. “It’s been a delicate effort with inconclusive results.”

But that premise rests on the premise that President Museveni has not taken a stand on the issue. He doesn’t need to come outright and say he supports the execution of his nation’s gays. This sort of thing does the job just fine.