Should we be concerned that Bill Gates, rich person and master philanthropist and Sundance dancer, doesn’t seem very concerned about Uganda’s Kill The Gays bill?
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with a $35 billion endowment, focuses on global literacy, entrepreneurship in the poor regions, and of course, HIV/AIDS research, treatment, and prevention. And that’s where Gates’ focus on Uganda and Africa at large remain.
And yet he tells a reporter, when asked about Uganda’s proposed legislation: “The spread of AIDS is a huge problem and obviously we’re very involved. I talk in my letter about the great success with this male circumcision effort, and preventative drug trials. There’s a tendency to think in the U.S. just because a law says something that it’s a big deal. In Africa if you want to talk about how to save lives, it’s not just laws that count. There’s a stigma no matter what that law says, for sex workers, men having sex with men, that’s always been a problem for AIDS. It relates to groups that aren’t that visible. AIDS itself is subject to incredible stigma. Open involvement is a helpful thing. I wouldn’t overly focus on that. In terms of how many people are dying in Africa, it’s not about the law on the books; it’s about getting the message out and the new tools.”
Gates is a smart man, and he’s right on one count: Whether there’s a law on the books or not, stigmatization about HIV/AIDS, and gays, will remain for generations. But what he negates — or is perhaps uniformed of — is that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill specifically punishes anyone having same-sex sex while HIV-positive. And by punishes, we mean executes. EXECUTES! For having sex while carrying a virus that the local population remains terribly ill-informed about.
From his statement, it appears Gates isn’t terrified by the prospect that legalizing state-sponsored murder of those with HIV might, uh, infringe upon his efforts to fight the disease.
(Photo: Bill and wife Melinda at the Manhica Health Research Centre in Mozambique in 2003, via Reuters)