Ugandan Scientist Who Chaired President Museveni's Anti-Homosexuality Committee Runs HIV Project Funded by CDC

UPDATE: I have updated the title of this post to reflect new information from the National Institutes of Health. According to NIH spokesperson, Renate Myles, the CDC funds the grant led by Jane Aceng, not the NIH. Myles wrote:

NIH does not fund this grant.  The grant referenced in your blog was awarded by the CDC.  Please correct your post since it is causing quite a bit of confusion.  NIH Reporter includes data files on research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I would recommend that you contact the CDC to learn more about the grant and how it is structured.
All the best,
Renate Myles

……..
The committee of Ugandan researchers and scientists who gave President Museveni cover (see their final report here) to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was chaired by Jane Ruth Aceng. Dr. Aceng is a pediatrician and Director of General Health Services at Uganda’s Ministry of Health. She also is a principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health, currently leading a project which addresses “HIV response” in Uganda. See below to see the three grants she has received since 2012.

I wonder if the CDC and NIH will evaluate such requests for funding differently now in light of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.  Dr. Aceng is supposed to be leading an effort to address HIV response and yet her failure to stand up to the President’s misuse of science will weaken her nation’s ability to reach vulnerable populations. It is also quite possible that straights will fear coming forward for testing and treatment because they may be afraid of questions about their sexuality. People from all over the ideological spectrum agree that the bill will harm Uganda’s efforts to address HIV/AIDS (e.g., UNAIDS, Harvard’s Ed Green).
At the least, I hope the NIH and CDC will take steps to secure project leaders who are actual leaders.
H/t Joe Amon

The Day After: Ugandan Television Examines the New Anti-Gay Law

NTV Uganda devoted multiple segments to coverage of the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Here is what the network posted on You Tube:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV_goBW96Wc[/youtube]
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQwDJj9vKm0[/youtube]
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3FlXan024s[/youtube]
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA8nxfRwdKM[/youtube]
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C6OKjKeoPo[/youtube]
Entire signing ceremony (over 1 hour)
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvssoW9H2AQ&list=UUwga1dPCqBddbtq5KYRii2g&feature=c4-overview[/youtube]
(H/t Box Turtle Bulletin)

The Day After: Tabloid Publishes List of 200 Top Homosexuals; Ssempa Offers Gay Rehab; Far Right Reacts

The Uganda rag, The Red Pepper, has published what it says is a list of 200 Top Homosexuals.
One problem with the story is the statement that first time offenders can be sentenced to 14 years. According to the copy of the bill I posted yesterday, first offenders may be sentenced to life in prison. For touching.
This action is disgusting. I pray it does not incite Ugandans to persecute these people.
In this NY Daily News article, a picture is posted of Martin Ssempa who is now offering “rehabilitation counseling” for gays.  Here is a similar picture from Twitter:


US exgay leader Darrell Foster congratulates Martin Ssempa.


American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer thinks putting gays in prison for life is a good thing.


Scott Lively says Africans don’t really mean what they legislate.

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 – Full Text

A pdf of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2014 as signed today in Uganda is here.
Some reports indicated that the penalty for “the offence of homosexuality” would be 14 years in prison. However, the penalty is actually life.

The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if—
c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

Life in prison for touching.
The Ugandan professors who stood with Museveni have some explaining to do.

Former Member of Uganda Ministry of Health Committee on Homosexuality Objects to Political Direction; Declines to Sign Report

According to a Uganda Media Centre spokesman, President Museveni will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill today. However, he will do so amid discord on the committee he has appointed for political cover. Dr. Eugene Kinyanda is one name that was on the initial committee but does not appear among the signers of the final report. I have learned that he has declined to sign the report.
Dr Kinyanda wrote to fellow committee member Dr. Ezati and said:

I would like to state that I will not be signing the above document. This is mainly because what was initially just an inquiry to inform the scientific understanding of homosexuality from a medical standpoint has taken a very political direction. I will not be used to justify the passing of a bill which as a doctor I do not fully understand.
Regards
Dr Eugene Kinyanda

Dr. Kinyanda is certainly correct to question the political direction of the committee and I applaud his action.

Exclusive: Changes Made in Final Report of Uganda's Ministry of Health Committee on Homosexuality

I have obtained a copy of the final report of the Ministry of Health Committee on Homosexuality. Dated February 23, this report is more extensive than the first report with changes to the contents as well as the membership of the committee.
This report provides a more extensive look at research (although it is still missing some very important papers) and more significantly does not include recommendations regarding legislation. Two members were added to the committee: Assoc. Prof Charles Ibingira and Dr. Hannington Kasozi, and two names which were on the meeting minutes and first report do not show up on this report: Dr. Seggane Musisi, and Associate Professor Eugene Kinyanda.

The premise of this whole exercise should be called into question. If genetic determination is going to be the doorway to civil rights, then we should begin looking for the gene which determines membership in the NRM. It is beyond discouraging that the members of this committee did not raise this concern and discuss the limits of science to address the questions Museveni raised.
A particularly cruel part of this report is the recognition that reparative therapy interventions have not been successful. So what are Uganda’s GLB people to do? This anti-gay law can only be seen as abusive if the people who are the target can’t help it and can’t change it.
The copy of the report I have does not yet have signatures. One can only hope that the members will rethink their stance before the report comes to them for their signature.
UPDATE: Apparently, Museveni will sign the bill at 11am.

Is Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill On Hold?

In a statement dated February 18, but widely available just today (e.g., the Observer), Uganda’s President Museveni seems to leave open the door that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could be put on hold while he seeks additional input from researchers and scientists. Here is Museveni’s statement in full:

According to a Reuter’s report, the president’s spokesperson said the bill was on hold pending more research.
As I noted earlier this evening, one of the committee member’s of the Ministry of Health ad hoc committee is raising questions about how the committee’s work has been misused.
According to Museveni’s statement, he wants the U.S. government to work with Uganda’s scientific community.
 
 
 

African Media Watchdog: NRM Caucus Misinterpreted Ministry of Health Report on Homosexuality

Earlier this week, Peter Mwesige of the African Centre for Media Excellence scrutinized the way the Ugandan press handled the facts surrounding President Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality based on a report by an ad hoc committee of the Ministry of Health. In his article on the matter, Mwesige points out that the president’s political party caucus distorted the committee report by saying homosexuality was “an abnormal behavior.” Significantly, Mwesige quoted one of the committee members, psychologist Paul Bangirana. Bangirana accused the caucus of leaving out vital information which influenced many media reports.
While there are problems with the committee report, Mwesige is correct that the NRM press release did not accurately portray the report. Mwesige ends his article by pointing out that Uganda’s press should have included input from those who will feel the effects of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

And [balanced] factual or accurate reporting would also include journalists not ignoring the human rights-based argument that the gay community invokes in defending their sexuality.

 

Uganda's President Museveni Misuses Letter from Scientists and Researchers

I don’t know how President Museveni came up with the conclusion he did but it is obvious that he misread our letter about scientific consensus on sexual orientation.  On the website of Uganda’s State Department, the following was posted yesterday:

While attending the NRM Parliamentary Caucus Retreat at the National Leadership Institute (6th -16th February 2014), President Museveni promised to circulate a letter in response to his request to rule out a possibility that some human beings are genetically born homosexual.
The President partially read out the response by over 200 international experts on the science of homosexuality written to him on the 5th of February 2014 before he said he would sign the anti-homosexuality bill on grounds that no evidence was adduced to the effect that there are human beings homosexual by genetics, by both the international experts and the department of genetics of Makerere University Medical School.
The letter states clearly that “While it is unlikely that there is one simple biological or genetic cause for homosexuality in all people, there are neural, cognitive and personality differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals which appear to have at least some basis in biology.”

Elsewhere in the letter, we were clear that choice plays no role in the onset of sexual attractions:

For the vast majority of people, homosexual and heterosexual, sexual attractions emerge spontaneously without any prior sexual experience, exposure or recruitment. Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice.

There was risk involved in writing the letter and engaging in this process. However, we felt it important to go on record in the manner we did. The signers of our letter are united in condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and it is completely false to imply otherwise. After getting the Ugandan Ministry of Health report, President Museveni expressed his desire to pass the buck to others for his decision. However, the world is watching, and if Mr. Museveni signs that bill, history will record that he is responsible for that action.

Meeting Minutes from Uganda's Ministry of Health Task Force Debate on Homosexuality

Although Yoweri Museveni has not yet signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, he has signaled his intent to do so based on information presented to him from a task force set up by Uganda’s Ministry of Health. Museveni passed the buck to that committee and claims to be taking steps in line with their recommendations. I posted the committee’s report here last week.
Apparently, the task force only met two times prior to presenting their findings. According to minutes of those two meetings which I present here, the entire process seemed to be thrown together at the last minute.
Minutes for the first meeting:

Minutes of the 1st task force on the homosexuality debate held at the Ministry of Health on 3rd February 2014

Members Present
Dr. Isaac Ezati                                     Chair, Director Planning, Ministry of Health
Dr. Sylvester Onzivua                     Senior Pathologist, Mulago Hospital
Dr. Misaki Wayengera                    Geneticist, Makerere University
Prof. Seggane Musisi                      Psychiatrist, Makerere University
Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi                 Head, Mental Health Desk, Ministry of Health
Dr. Paul Bangirana                           Psychologist, Makerere University
Assoc. Prof. Eugene Kinyanda    Psychiatrist, Makerere University
Dr David Basangwa                          Director, Butabika Hospital
Min 1: The Chair briefed members that the President needs an opinion from experts whether homosexuality is abnormal.
Min 2: The team agreed to answer the following questions;
a)      Is there a scientific basis for homosexuality, if yes what is it?
b)      Is it a disease (disease process) or not?
c)       Is it an abnormality. What drives it? Include the social, psychological and religious causes.
Min 3: They also noted the need to mention the following in the report;
a)      The protection of families and that the act needs to be regulated i.e. no recruiting, public displays so as to protect children and families.
b)      The controversies of the literature. No literature in Uganda about homosexuality, most studies done in the West. There is need to balance between the evidence from the west and protecting our culture.
c)       Studies are needed to study homosexuality/sexuality in Uganda.
Min 4: To meet again on Wednesday at 6pm with answers to the question, is there a scientific basis for this?

Minutes for the second meeting:

Minutes of the 2nd task force on the homosexuality debate held at the Ministry of Health on 5th February 2014

Members Present

  1. Dr. Isaac Ezati                                     Chair, Director Planning, Ministry of Health
  2. Dr. Sylvester Onzivua                     Senior Pathologist, Mulago Hospital
  3. Dr. Misaki Wayengera                    Geneticist, Makerere University
  4. Prof. Seggane Musisi                      Psychiatrist, Makerere University
  5. Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi                 Head, Mental Health Desk, Ministry of Health
  6. Dr. Paul Bangirana                           Psychologist, Makerere University
  7. Dr Jacinto Amandua                        Commissioner, Ministry of Health

Absent with apology

  1. Assoc. Prof. Eugene Kinyanda    Psychiatrist, Makerere University
  2. Dr David Basangwa                          Director, Butabika Hospital

Min 1: Dr Ezati nominated Prof Seggane to Chair the scientific arm of the task force. He reiterated the question the Minister wanted answered; what is the scientific or genetic basis of homosexuality and can it be learned or unlearned.
Min 2: Prof Seggane presented his report. He gave a background on sexuality and overview of the biological basis. He concluded that homosexuality is not an abnormality nor a habit but a normal biological variant of sexuality. It needs to be regulated as was in the traditional African society.
Min 3: Dr Bangirana presented evidence showing that that the hypothalamus in both homosexual men and heterosexual women was activated by androgen containing odours. All brains of the three groups processed other odours similarly. These findings imply that homosexual men have a different brain response to male odours compared to heterosexual men but they respond to other odours like heterosexuals. It is not clear whether this differing physiological response exists at birth or developed after homosexual experience later in life.
Min 4: Dr Onzivua made his presentation. He mentioned that there is no biological basis for homosexuality. There is no biological basis to promote homosexuality, different body parts are adapted for their functions, eg pinna to collect sound waves etc.  The anatomy of the human being is not designed homosexuality. There are no conclusive studies on the genetics of homosexuality. However the environmental influence can not be ignored.
Min 5: Dr Wayengera presented his report. There are statistical correlations between the behaviour and structural and genetic factors. The current based on the dearth of genetic studies imply that it is a learned behaviour (social influence). Chromosomal studies have not produced consistent results when replicated. Animal studies have shown a genetic basis of homosexuality (in Drosophila and mice) but have not replicated in humans. Evolutionary biology where the main role for sex is procreation implies there is no structural basis for homosexuality.
Min 6: A discussion followed these presentations. It was suggested that simple explanations are needed to explain homosexuality since the lay public will not understand the science presented above. Need to look at it from all angles i.e. biological, psychological and social.
Min 7: Conclusions:
a)      There is no definitive gene for homosexuality
b)      Homosexuality is not a disease
c)       Homosexuality is not an abnormality
d)      In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies
e)      It can be influenced by environmental factors (e.g. culture, information, permissiveness)
f)       The practise needs regulation like any other behaviour

It is stunning to think that a decision as important as whether to endorse the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could be decided in this manner. Clearly this committee did not consider all of the evidence and ignored some that was presented. At least as reported here, the committee did not reflect on the inappropriate use of science requested by the president, and even discussed simplifying the complexity of the issues for public consumption. There is something very wrong about this process; the right to exist should not depend on research studies.