HIV Researchers on Edge After Anti-Gay Raids Across Africa

Published: May 7, 2014

A police raid on an established research program in Uganda has left scientists worried that their projects may be targeted by authorities granted sweeping powers under the country’s harsh new antihomosexuality law. “We’re all sort of wondering who is on a list,” says Lisa Butler, a public health researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital who has studied HIV prevention and treatment in Uganda for over a decade.

Tensions have been high since 24 February, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a law making certain homosexual acts crimes that are punishable by life in prison. In early April, plainclothes police officers reportedly entered the Kampala offices of the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), a program run jointly for more than a decade by the country’s largest university and the US Military HIV Research Program. The police arrested one person who was released later that day.

The Ugandan police force later released a statement that they had received a report that the project was “carrying out recruitment and training of young males in unnatural sexual acts.” So-called ‘crime intelligence officers’ infiltrated the project, the release said, and, with other participants, they watched “videos of men engaging in homosexual activity.”

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