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Tanzanian government suspends HIV programs for gay community

The Tanzanian government has suspended U.S. funded AIDS programs for the gay community in what is seen as a crackdown on homosexuals in Tanzania. The suspension was followed by the closure of all 40 health centres which provided AIDS-related services to homosexuals. In most African countries there have been sharp divisions over homosexuality and authorities have consistently escalated their campaigns against homosexuality.

The Tanzanian government has suspended U.S. funded AIDS programs for the gay community in what is seen as a crackdown on homosexuals in Tanzania. The suspension was followed by the closure of all 40 health centres which provided AIDS-related services to homosexuals.

A circular released by the Ministry of Health, signed by the Minister Ummy Mwalimu, confirms the government’s temporary suspension of HIV/AIDS outreach project targeting the gay community.

Read: Tanzania will not soften tough stance on homosexuality

Gay marriages are criminalized  in Tanzania. Although President John Maguful has not publicly stated his position on homosexuality, a number of his appointees have made harsh remarks, which state the position of the government on the issue.

The action is seen as a vicious campaign against the gay community. The government has often argued that homosexuality has no place in Tanzania and is in-congruent with the country’s moral values and traditional norms.

Kenyan gays, lesbians and others wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a protest against Uganda’s stance against homosexuality and in solidarity with their counterparts there, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Feb. 10, 2014

Even though Tanzania’s penal code refers to homosexuality as a “gross indecency,” the government had long permitted several organizations to help HIV gay men or those at risk contracting the virus to operate. The health minister,  Mwalimu, explained in a statement last month that officially suspending HIV/AIDS outreach programs for homosexual patients is meant to review whether the programs promoted same-sex relationships.

Read: Bid to reintroduce anti gay law

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, (PEPFAR) launched by former U.S. President George. W. Bush, became one of the most ambitious U.S. assistance programs ever in Africa, and Tanzania is an example of its success stories. Since 2002, the overall HIV/AIDS rate in the country has declined from 12 percent to 5 percent.

In most African countries there have been sharp divisions over homosexuality and authorities have consistently escalated their campaigns against homosexuality. In 2014, Uganda’s parliament passed a law, which was later annulled after pressure from right groups, the law imposed the death penalty on those found guilty of practicing homosexuality.

The U.N. Free and Equal Campaign for Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights report indicates that homosexuality is criminalized in at least 76 countries, and about 33 of them are in Africa. In many African countries, homosexuality is seen as a western culture being forced on Africans.

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