Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hillary Clinton Condemns Global Homophobia

On the eve of World AIDS Day Hillary Clinton yesterday addressed the criminalization of people with HIV and homosexuality in a press conference, after days of criticism of the Obama administration for not speaking out on Uganda's proposed law that would execute HIV-positive gay men:

“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,” she said during a press conference in which officials also announced that the XIX International AIDS Conference, set for 2012, will be held in United States — the first time the conference has been held here since 1990. “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide.”

There was not a mention of Uganda specifically.Kerry Eleveld's story quotes an unnamed source close to the state department who says they're working through back channels and acknowledges that nonetheless there needs to be public condemnation and implies that it will come if things don't change. Kerry also discusses the concern regarding the administration's only comments on Uganda's plan thus far, from the president's global AIDS coordinator, Eric Goosby:

Clinton’s comments came on the heels of an interview with Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, that concerned many HIV/AIDS activists.

“My role is to be supportive and helpful to the patients who need these services. It is not to tell a country how to put forward their legislation,” Goosby said of Uganda last week during a Newsweek interview.

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...

...“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.”

This is good to hear, and I applaud Secretary Clinton for her general statements against homophobia. But, yes, we need loud and public condemnation specifically of Uganda and its policies. This cannot go publicly unchallenged.