Uganda: Gay Sex-for-Food Rocks Prisons

The 139th assembly of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) has voted to permanently ban debate on the LGBT subject.

Kampala — The Uganda prisons authorities have blamed the increasing cases of homosexuality among inmates on trading their bodies for better feeding and protection.

The assistant commissioner for Health Services at Uganda Prisons Service, Dr James Kisambu, said the practice of male inmates having sex with fellow males was largely due to the prevailing conditions in the prisons.

"Prison conditions compromise anybody to do something they cannot do outside prison. Some inmates may indulge in transactional sex maybe because they need to feed better or for better security," Dr Kisambu said in an interview.

He said some inmates are also influenced by colleagues who deceive them that gay sex could help them make money once out of jail.

Study findings

Dr Kisambu was responding to questions on preliminary findings of a study conducted by the Uganda Prisons Service in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study, conducted between 2013 and 2014, revealed that about 3 per cent of prisons male staff have had sex with a male partner.

"It can be seen that 2.9 per cent of male staff had ever had sex with a male partner; 38.8 per cent had at least two male sexual partners; with five as the median number of partners," the report read in part.

It also indicated that the proportion of staff engaging in homosexuality was most prevalent among staff of 20 to 24 years (5.6 per cent), followed by those of 40 to 44 years (4.8 per cent) with no men having sex with fellow men among those above 60 years.

But Dr Kisambu said more studies are yet to be done to analyse the findings further.

"Like it is in the general public, the act of men having sex with men among prison staff is a behavioural and a lifestyle issue because they think it is something good," he said.

Dr Kisambu said the prison authorities are educating their staff about the risks involved, including contracting HIV.

Last week, at a meeting to implement the presidential initiative aimed at ending the HIV/Aids epidemic by 2030, the Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, made a presentation that indicated that gay sex was most prevalent among staff of 20 to 24 years.

Among inmates, Dr Babashaija, said the proportion of male prisoners engaging in gay sex was twice that of staff standing at 6.5 per cent.

At the meeting organised by the Uganda Aids Commission for armed forces, Dr Byabashaija asked his counterparts in police and the army to embrace the Presidential Fast-Track Initiative for ending Aids in Uganda by 2030. The President launched the drive in June last year.

Aids numbers

Dr Byabashaija said about 4,811 of the 50,000 inmates across the country are living with the virus; of whom 797 are females and 4,014 male.

Dr Kisambu said the inmates also tested when exiting the prison as a way of guiding those who are positive to continue on treatment.

"We are testing inmates at entry through our medical screening and those found positive are enrolled on treatment but we also do routine tests after three months for those found negative," he said.

He said HIV prevalence stands at 12 per cent among prison warders and at 15 per cent among inmates, both figures being higher than the national prevalence that currently stands at 6.0 per cent.

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