Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Smart cities' and twinning as a model for 'intelligent' urbanization; lessons for Global South countries

A city:

A large place where many humans live, located at a given point is called a city or town. In this location, people have been organized in different categories and live side by side. In this setting humans are able to predict and harness their environment. They are able to make forecasts, are aware where to give or get services. They are able to produce food, store it and use it to address future needs. Other social needs:  dialogue among people, conflict-resolution, grazing of animals, treatment of ailments and habitation are addressed too in this setting. In these settings there are those who take on leadership and advisory roles. These people are trusted with a lot of issues. They in turn provide advice and are known to generate thought processes for solutions.  There are other people who engage in other activities like: army, navy, agriculture, medicine, administration, construction, artisanry, innovation and repairs. Cities have become citadels of comfort and confidence. They have built into the status and symbolism of societies. Cities have been spaces in which both peace and war took place. Over time cities have been shelters and refugee destinations. Humans have learnt from the experiences of history that inhumane treatment of others, poor waste disposal, poor urban planning and many other wrong practices can lead to diseases, epidemics and death. All this knowledge came about when humans learnt to live in cities. There have been lessons learnt. These lessons have emerged into aesthetic architecture and well planned cities.

How cities have evolved:
Some cities came into existence as a result of being the homes of kings, queens, emperors, presidents, chiefs and other leaders. They got names whose meaning referred to habitation of the leaders. More people settled around this habitation because they were assured of security and proximity to their leaders. Bigger numbers of people were located at one point. They took on organized coexistence. Cities were not only named after habitation. Some took on names of physical features in the vicinity like: rivers; lakes; seas; mountains; hills; ambiance; valleys; and climate. This is known as adopting an eponymous name. But that was not all there was when it came to names. Cities are metaphors or given literal names. They are given names with a purpose or goal or as a belief statement. In such cities one can find: World trade centers; research; aeronautical engineering; pilgrimage sites; and health spas. Cities have been in existence as far back as 10,000 BCE. Legends talk of Ophir in Africa, Babel, Gomorrah and Sodom on the Arabian Peninsula. Byblos in Lebanon existed around. Byblos in Lebanon was in existence by 5000 BCE; Damascus in Syria existed as far back as 4000 BCE; Sidon and Tyre in Lebanon existed by 4000 BCE; Argos and Athens in Greece existed between 5000-4000 BCE; Rome was in place by 753 BCE; Thessaloniki was in place by 315 BCE; Tbilisi existed by 500AD; London was established around 43 AD; Paris was established in 52 BCE; Lisbon was in place by 1200 BCE; Varanasi of India existed in 1200-1100 BCE; Balkh in Afghanistan was in place by 1500 BCE; Luoyang in China was in place by 2070 BCE; Osaka in Japan was in existence by 400 AD; Carthage and Utica in Africa existed by 1000 BCE;  Axum in Ethiopia was in place by 400 BCE; Thebes (Luxor) in Egypt was in place by 3200 BCE; Faiyum in Egypt existed by 4000 BCE; Alexandria in Egypt existed by 332 BCE; Yeha in Ethiopia existed by 700 BCE; Lamu in Kenya existed by 1300 AD; Cape Town in South Africa existed  in 1652; the extensive Zimbabwe stone houses of the Monomotapa Empire existed by 1400 AD; Bigo reed cities of the Cwezi Empire existed by 100 AD; the Mansa (ruler) built the Timbuktu, Gao, Dia and Djenne Cities in the Mali/Ghana/Songhai Empire by 1200 AD.

Some examples of 'smart cities':
In the 21 Century we have 'smart' and 'global' cities. One can do all business imaginable and be done with at one spot. These cities include: Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, India; Nano City, India; Putrajaya, Malaysia; King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia; Sejong City, South Korea; Sun City; South Africa; Songdo International Business District, South Korea; Dubai Waterfront, UAE; Dubai World Central, UAE; Masdar City, UAE; Tirana, Albania; New York, USA; Arlington, Virginia; 

Some uses of cities:
The existence of cities and towns has been used to human advantage. They are government seats, education destination, used as pilgrimage destinations, habitation and many other aspects. A recent model that can help in improving on human development is called Twinning.

Twinning has popularized the people-to-people diplomacy or what is termed as the 'citizen diplomacy.' Friendships and relationships are made based on specific features. These relationships have endured and have been used as good will to negotiate business deals.

The features that have brought about twinning of cities are:
-resemblances and similar city stories like being colonies of a similar colonialist. The similarities could be based on shared dates of establishment too.

-social cultural similarities or sentimentality in form of marriage or pacts have been basis of cities twinning. Following WW I and WW II many cities in Europe twinned as one way to heal wounds and provide opportunities to generate dialogue on issues. One outcome of this kind of twinning was the denunciation of inhumane acts and in their place adopt a culture of respect, dignity and conduct. Cities that twinned signed contracts to that effect. This has become a model in peace building and  holistic development initiatives.

-education was an important point in twinning of cities. University cities made pacts amongst each other and exchange platforms were opened up. Planned sharing of resources was possible and this filled gaps and needs on either sides.

-Naming still plays a very important role in twinning of cities. Many cities have eponymous names following their proximity to rivers, lakes, mountains, volcanoes, large built or man-made establishments.

-Cities are twinned because they are a destination. Conversation about one immediately and seamlessly brings in the name of the sister city. We have Medina and Mecca or the twin cities of Minnesota as examples that immediately comes to mind.

-Twinning could be as a result of a port or research or the mutual mindfulness about the environment. The other mutual issues could be: human rights, economics, population size, size, demography, shared culinary culture and Diasporas.

People-to-people citizen diplomacy:
The USA has formal citizen diplomacy in place. This was formerly the National League of Cities that later became the US Sister City Program. This was in 1956 under the US President Dwight Eisenhower. He launched the people to people, citizen diplomacy initiative was formally. Currently, it is Sister Cities International (SCI). It is a not-for-profit corporation. Its roles are: Strengthen partnerships; create partnerships between US and world communities. It reached the 2000 cities and 136 countries. It is a cultural exchange opportunity.

Outcomes of twinning:
This is what happens when twinning occurs.
-field studies
-exploration of areas of cooperation
-business opportunities
-planned talent exhibitions
-music performances
-sharing cultural experiences
-mutual friendships
-business fares
-attendances at peace parks
-explore how cultures deal with life issues
-teacher exchanges happen
-it is possible to celebrate mutual events
-it is possible to make investments in sister cities (food, catering, services industries can have franchises). Profit-making and sharing models are passed on too.

Opportunities of twinning with US Cities:
In USA, twinning taps into the rich and existing experiences around leadership, organization and infrastructure gained over a long time. Countries like those in Africa can learn from this. The US Conference of Mayors; youth exchange programs and leadership training from the renowned Sister Cities International Boulder, Colorado Institute is beneficial to new and emerging 'smart' urbanization communities of Africa and other countries in the world. The Sister Cities International (SCI) Youth & Education Network is one stop worth of one's time. SCI has a mission to promote peace through mutual understanding and cooperation-one community at a time; and a goal to develop partnerships between US Cities, counties and states of similar jurisdictions in other nations. 

The model used by the Sister Cities International Corporation:
1. It uses the sister model approach to create diplomacy
2. It promotes cooperation at municipal level
3. It promotes cultural understanding
4. It promotes dialogue that stimulates organization development, confidence, fulfillment and economic development
5. It links, registers, recognizes, coordinates and ensures relationships are made and maintained between cities, counties, municipalities, oblasts, prefectures, states, towns and villages.

The  business sense in twinning:
-two communities are joined to address a unique need. There is a contract binding and commitment to improve on each other. This is motivational and profitable.
-the partnership between communities promotes an understanding of cultures, conduct and the knowledge gained can improve on one's perspective about a region, country or people.
-opportunities to meet people in their environment and see how they interact or engage in work.
-it is industrial tourism, built areas tourism, conflict resolution tourism, peace-building tourism, rural-urban cultural tourism. It provides sense of assimilation and use of space by people.
-twinning between Global South and Global North Cities is a whole new experience. It is the face to face opportunity to experience an 'intelligent and smart' city for many. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate what works in the Global North

Business sense of 'smart cities' in general:
-It is possible to overcome reluctance, fear and venture into implementing what may otherwise be thought impossible. Travel widens one's perspective. Seeing is believing and touching is knowing. The technological experiences from long subways so many floors down connecting cities to their outlying vicinity and inter city location; tunnels with multilane roads; multistory tenements used as habitation for very many families; skyscrapers with large office space;  and orderly management of cities are some of the examples. This feeds into the decision support and thought process of innovators and investors. Such examples and infrastructure can be replicated in the Global South. The heavy machinery required to do this and expertise from Global North to Global South creates mutual employment and education opportunities.
-The concept of 'new urbanism' or 'Global cities' where mixed use zoning allows many people to walk from one land use type to another has improved on the way cities have generated money and popularity. Housing, shopping, office space, leisure facilities are all within walking or driving distance. 
-Smart cities or intelligent cities are using knowledge-based development, globalization of innovation, networks and broadband services to share best practices and information. They use this technology and communication to mobilize communities to embrace aesthetic practices. 'Smart cities' assume smart planning from day one. This is a recipe for efficient communities;  they promote agreement and commitment to standard operating procedures;  they create create critical numbers of agglomerations that focus on development. This creates resources and fosters quality competitiveness and innovation. These communities ensure the environment is well cared for, energy use meets emission protocols. The governance and democratization at micro-level is monitored. These spaces become models of quality life.
- The reliance on land-use planning with its features of: orderliness; regulation; efficiency; ethics; prevention of land-use conflicts; and safeguarding natural resources is a character that sets these communities apart.
-Systematic assessment of land and water, potential alternatives for land use and economic and social conditions in order to select and adopt the best land use options lends itself to professionalism and commitment by governments, investors, works and maintenance services.

Features of 'smart cities' 
1. They are built, constructed and maintained according to existing environmental needs, they use the psycho-social models and have 'people in mind' when they are planned.
2. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is relied upon when planning them. Their 3 dimensional location has: aerial view; topography; street names; zip code. Accessibility is easy in this context.

3. Transect planning describes character of land in physical terms. It ensures all developments around are known and safeguards the ecosystem. 

16 Frequently Asked Questions about HIV, AIDS, STDs, Relationships and Skin Infections among MSM/Sexual Minorities in Uganda

How is HIV Spread?

People infected with HIV carry the virus in their body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. The virus can spread only if these HIV-infected fluids enter the bloodstream of another person. This can take place (1) through the walls of the vagina, rectum, mouth, or the opening at the tip of the penis; (2) through injection with a syringe; or (3) through a break in the skin, such as a cut or sore. The most common ways that people become infected with HIV are:
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse (either vaginal or anal) with someone who has HIV;
  • Sharing needles or syringes (including those used for steroids) with someone who has HIV;
  • Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding.

Are You Afraid You May Already Have HIV?

Some people develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms or persistent swollen glands immediately after becoming infected with HIV. But symptoms are not a good indicator of HIV infection, because many people don’t experience any symptoms for many years. Even if you look and feel healthy, you could still be infected.
You may be at risk if you have had unprotected sex or if the condom broke during sex, if you have multiple partners or have discovered your partner was not monogamous, if you have shared needles, if you recently tested positive for another sexually transmitted infection, or if you were sexually assaulted. And it is important to know that HIV is more easily passed from men to women or from the insertive partner to the receptive partner.
If you think there’s a chance you may have been exposed to HIV, you should get tested as soon as possible.

What Happens When You Get Tested?

There are several types of HIV tests. The most basic is the HIV antibody test, which takes one to two weeks to generate results and may produce false positives. A positive antibody test is always followed by an antigen test to confirm the first test. If doubts still persist, doctors usually recommend a third very sensitive and expensive test that can detect the presence of the virus itself.
In addition to the blood tests described above, another option is the OraSure rapid test, which uses a swab of oral mucus or fluid from the inside of your cheek. Rapid tests can detect HIV antibodies in about 20 minutes, eliminating the waiting period between taking an HIV test and learning your status.
Bear in mind—it normally takes three months after the last possible exposure to HIV before a person will test positive. Since the greatest period of contagion is in the earliest weeks after HIV infection, and since HIV antibody tests cannot definitely confirm infection earlier than three months, you should take great care to avoid unprotected sex if you think you may have been exposed to HIV recently.
A positive HIV test result indicates that antibodies to HIV were detected. It does not mean that you have AIDS or that you will get sick right away. And although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, many opportunistic infections can be prevented or treated.
Likewise, negative test results do not necessarily rule out HIV infection, because there is a window period between HIV infection and the appearance of HIV antibodies. If you have engaged in risky activities, it is important to be re-tested every three months.


Is it important to Get Tested?

Many young people who are HIV positive don’t know it, which means they can’t take important steps to protect themselves or other people, or to get the medical care they need. One should take initiative to be tested for HIV. It lets one know the status and seek timely management for positive status or seek counselling on how to stay negative.
It's ideal to get tested at a place that provides counselling because counsellors can help you understand what your test results mean, answer questions about how to protect yourself and others, and refer you to local HIV-related resources.


Why Is It Important to Know if you’ve Got HIV?

If you think you may have HIV, it is important to find out as soon as possible. HIV is most easily transmitted when the level of virus in the body is at its highest—shortly after HIV infection and at the late stage of the disease. Even in the early stages of HIV infection, you can take concrete steps to protect your long-term health. Beginning medical care before you begin to get sick may give you many more years of healthy life. And knowing you’re HIV positive allows you to take the necessary precautions to prevent others from becoming infected.
If you are HIV positive, it is important to see your doctor regularly. Get tested for tuberculosis and other opportunistic infections. Keep your immune system strong through good nutrition, adequate sleep, and not smoking or drinking alcohol. Find a social support system; it is important to remember that you are not alone.


How Can You Tell if Someone Has HIV/AIDS?

You can’t tell if someone has HIV or AIDS simply by looking. An infected person can appear completely healthy. But anyone infected with HIV can infect other people, even if no symptoms are present and even if they believe they are negative. If you are sexually active, the only way to be sure you don’t have HIV is to get tested.
If you’re not sexually active, you’ve already eliminated the most common cause of HIV infection. But if you have made the decision to have sexual intercourse, you need to protect yourself.
HIV/AIDS doesn’t discriminate. That means that anyone who engages in risky behaviour can become infected with HIV.
Remember, it’s not who you are but what you do that determines whether you can become infected with HIV.



When Is Safer Sex Important?

The rules are simple. Whenever you have sexual intercourse, (or oral sex), practice safer sex by using a condom or dental dam (a square of latex recommended for use during sex). When used properly and consistently, condoms are close to 99 percent effective in preventing transmission of HIV. But remember:
  • Use only latex condoms (or dental dams);
  • Use only water-based lubricants;
  • Use protection each and every time you have sex.
Other methods of birth control (such as the diaphragm and birth control pills) do not protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Practicing safer sex will help you avoid other STIs, many of which can increase your risk of contracting HIV or giving it to someone else. You should also limit the number of sexual partners you have, and limit the use of alcohol or recreational drugs, which can impair judgment and decisions one makes before and during sex.

Is Protection Necessary During Oral Sex?

It is much easier to contract HIV through unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Unprotected oral sex (mouth to penis, mouth to anus, mouth to vagina) is not a completely safe substitute. If you choose to perform or receive oral sex—whether your partner is male or female—it's wise to guard against the transmission of HIV. Here’s how:
  • Use a latex condom each and every time you perform oral-penile sex (fellatio); or
  • Use plastic food wrap, a latex condom cut open, or a dental dam during oral-vaginal sex (cunnilingus) or oral-anal sex (analingus).
These methods provide a physical barrier to HIV transmission and help keep you safe from other sexually transmitted infections, many of which can increase your risk of contracting HIV or giving it to someone else.



Aren’t HIV and AIDS the Same Thing?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). When HIV infects someone, the virus enters the body and begins to multiply and attack immune cells that normally protect us from disease. Eventually the body's immune system breaks down and is unable to fight off opportunistic infections and other illnesses ranging from pneumonia and cancer to blindness and dementia. Only when someone with HIV begins to experience these specific infections and illnesses are they diagnosed with AIDS.

Is There a Cure for HIV/AIDS?

AIDS is still a fatal disease for which there is no cure and no vaccine. New medications are helping many people with HIV/AIDS live longer, healthier lives, but the combination or “cocktail” treatments don’t work for everyone. They are very expensive and often cause serious side effects, including liver damage, increased risk of heart attack, a form of osteoporosis, chronic diarrhoea, rashes, fat redistribution, and high cholesterol. And because HIV mutates constantly, the virus often develops resistance and the medications become ineffective. The best defence is to use a condom.

Do STIs make me Get HIV?

HIV/AIDS is also a sexually transmitted infection although it can be transmitted non-coitally (without having sex with someone) through blood transfusion with HIV contaminated blood. A list of STIs includes; chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhoea, herpes, and syphilis. People aged 15–35 years; represent a big percentage of the sexually active population which makes them susceptible to acquiring new STIs when they engage in unprotected sex (WHO).
Having any of the above sexually transmitted infection can increase your risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV and developing AIDS. This is true whether you have open sores or breaks in the skin (as with syphilis, herpes, and chancroid) or not (as with chlamydia and gonorrhoea). Where there are breaks in the skin, HIV can enter and exit the body more easily. But even when you have undamaged skin, STIs can cause biological changes that may make HIV transmission more likely. Studies show that people with HIV who are infected with another STI are two to five times more likely to contract or transmit the virus through sex. What to do? Practice safer sex.

Can You Get HIV Through Casual Contact?

HIV is not an easy virus to pass from one person to another, like the flu. It is not transmitted through food or air (for instance, by coughing or sneezing). There has never been a case where a person was infected by a household member, relative, co-worker, or friend through casual or everyday contact such as sharing eating utensils and bathroom facilities or hugging and kissing. (Most scientists agree that while HIV transmission through deep or prolonged “French” kissing might be possible, it’s extremely unlikely.) There have been no recorded cases of transmission through contact with saliva, tears, or sweat.
Mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects do not transmit HIV; when they bite a person, they inject their own saliva, not their blood or the blood of the last person they bit. You can’t get HIV from giving blood at a blood bank or other established blood collection center; they use sterile-packed needles every time they draw blood.

Does Gender-Based Violence in same sex relations exist?

Yes. Gender-based violence refers to a range of harmful customs and behaviours against girls, boys, women, and men, including intimate partners by subjecting them to forms of violence, deprivation, domestic violence. These include assaults against girls, boys, women, men, in various forms such as child sexual abuse, and rape. It generally derives from cultural and social norms where men or dominant partners use power and authority to force their way over those vulnerable, submissive, or over women. Prevalence estimates for GBV vary widely as a result of differing definitions of violence, power play relations, data on who is most vulnerable, reporting systems, collection methods, and time periods used in different studies. Current estimates indicate that between 8% and 70% of submissive partners, weaker partners and women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a dominant partner at least once in their lives. This variation in estimated prevalence may also be a consequence of significant under reporting due to stigma, shame, or other social and cultural factors that deter weaker partners and women from disclosing episodes of gender-based violence.

I don’t identify as a gay or lesbian who am I?

 Gay or lesbian is a term used as a watered down definition for same sex orientation relations. You may not identify as gay or a lesbian due to reasons you know better and the consequences of your own visibility. This is normal. However, if you are male you are a man who has sex with a man. If you are a female, you are a woman who has sex with a woman. This situation has public health importance that is why there is need to explore and understand your sexual needs and developments. Any risky behaviour can expose you to danger as easily as someone in a hetero-sexual relation.

What are some of the misconceptions about anal sex?

 Anal sex is when the genitals of a partner or someone else are rubbed near or inserted in the anus in the act of consensual sexual consummation, act of rape, experimenting, and play acting. Many who indulge in anal sex are not aware it can expose them to HIV and STDs. Unprotected anal sex with a partner whose status is unknown or with multiple partners is risky and can expose one to infections.

Do condoms protect against HIV and other viral infections?

A condom used consistently and correctly with lubricant in penile- anal sex can protect both consenting partners against infection or in case one is infected it can protect against re-infection. However, if one indulges in oral sex there has to be protection with dental dams.

Education Materials to improve health seeking/preservation decisions for gay persons in Uganda (Project 4)

Demystifying ten common myths about Homosexuality in Uganda

Myth #1: “They are no big deal”

First of all let us agree on terminology. Let us loosely use two words:  straight for heterosexuals and gays for homosexuals. Yes! There are those who are heterosexual and homosexual. This is also known as normativity. There are those who have strictly heterosexual normativity and those who have a homosexual one. This is also termed as orientation, identification or attraction. Surprised?? Well do not be. I see you are still asking where is the big deal? Well it is in how they wish to relate with others and how they wish to be treated in order to enjoy a fuller life, which everyone is entitled to.

Myth #2: “Cannot contribute to society yet have a lot of money”

This idea springs from what is being said that homosexuality is a Western decadence. It is also said they do not contribute to civic duties. Well, that is tricky. Civic duties can mean attending; a burial, weddings, naming of a child, community clean-up campaigns and keeping an area clean. To be law abiding one does not have to put a placard on their chest; be they straight or gay. To have a ‘lot of money’ can mean anything: to have means to address needs.

Myth #3: “Should not have homes because may use this to recruit children”

Well this is subject to debate. This also raises another question of acknowledging that gay couples can have a home. Gay people are born in families, may choose to have children or may not choose to have children. This does not mean they should therefore not live in a home once they choose to. Gay people are normal people and deserve dignified living. There is fear that they will market homosexuality to children or young people. This is not true. There are gay mothers and fathers whose children are not gay. This shows that a home may also be a place where homosexuality as a practice is not passed on to others.

Myth #4: “Sodomites, paedophiles, unnatural, abnormal and bum-shafters”

Phew! What a mouthful. That is graphic, demonising and dehumanising. But let us go slow here. These terms derive from a depiction driven by homophobia; they are a foregone conclusion that homosexuals cannot associate in any form and are offenders even before being tried. This has laid ground for an offence of aggravated homosexuality where the person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years; the offender is a person living with HIV; the offender is a serial offender. Gay and straight alike disavow sexual acts against non-consenting persons, children and deliberate infection with HIV.

Myth #5: “Homosexuals can not be called any other name”

There is a term known as same–sex relations! Do not look the other way. People are scared of understanding issues to do with sexuality and sex for fear of going against years of homophobic transfix and indoctrination. This is stifling initiative, kindness and love.

Myth #6: “Homosexuality is linked to defilement”

No one condones sex with under age persons. Originally the boy child was discriminated against by not recognising the boy as a victim of rape and defilement the penal code has addressed that point. However even then, hate promoters seem to dwell on fears that would get to the minds of any parent or sane person who is against defilement. Straight or gay. This has been promoted by many hate promoters. Sexual offenses such as rape, sexual harassments and defilement involve girls, boys and women in situations of calamity.

Myth #7: “The Bible has evidence that it is a perversion, a curse, a wrong thing and evil”

Let us be careful with using the Bible as a reference! Sexual intercourse is not all that is done by homosexuals. They do engage in productive work, they are law-abiding citizens and many are professionals who are skilled in many areas of expertise. Homosexuality is described as a sin (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26, 27) in the Bible. Sex outside marriage is condemned because what protagonists claim that sex is for procreation (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:24; Matthew 19:5). Policy-makers use this to influence legislation.

Myth #8: “They spoil our children through erotic information you pass to them”

This is not true. Even homosexuals were once children. And they are not a threat to children or young persons. Gay people are as God-fearing as the next person. Children can pick any information on various subjects via the streets, friends, peers and internet. Many avenues have provided and depicted erotic writings and behaviour causing sexual excitement.

Myth #9: “They are mentally disturbed and cannot respect committed relations’ vows.”

Well this is another of the myths that has been unfounded and lumped together with other assumptions and statements like seduction of younger persons as a pattern most homosexuals follow and that homosexuality is about gratification of lust and because of that they are assumed to be mentally unstable. But, even in heterosexual relations we see this kind of behaviour.

Myth #10: “The Anti-Homosexuality Act will wipe out homosexuality in Uganda”


This is a death wish and this talk is similar to the one that alludes to importation of homosexuality to Uganda. It also depicts homosexuality in a shed of sickness. At the elementary level homosexuality can also mean the inherent tendency to relate to people of same sex without necessarily attributing sexual intercourse to it. Surely you do not want to mean that as children grow and still relate to persons of same sex they should be incarcerated. What the Act does, it seeks to toughen laws against homosexuality (where there is carnal knowledge), by calling for death to gays who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive or engage in homosexual sex with minors, and hands down several years’ jail sentence to Ugandans who fail to report homosexual activity. What it will do is; it will disrupt so many social relations and will only spark paranoia. Even in the bible Paul concludes an exhortation and through it does not call for death for a sinner he was using to show example to Corinthians but was telling them that death was not an answer because as opposed to Old Testament days we all are living under Grace and not Law (Romans 1:21-32).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Nepal’s education board has included sexuality and gender diversity as part of the school curriculum on sexual and reproductive health for Classes 6, 7 and 8. The new syllabus on the subject of ‘Health and Physical Education’, includes components on homosexual attraction and third gender (transgenders), among other topics related to sexual health and awareness. Guidelines for instructors emphasize that these topics need to be taught in a way such that students learn to be respectful and sensitive towards transgender and homosexual communities.
Sunil Babu Pant, former legislator and a prominent LGBT rights advocate in Nepal says, “This is a huge achievement for Nepal. It took 5 years for this to happen, but we are happy that education is inclusive now. The new generation will have less of sexuality and gender related prejudices and more acceptance of sexual and gender diversity and lives.”
Pant, along with the Blue Diamond Society, a rights organization that he founded has been at the forefront in championing the LGBT rights movement in Nepal and had played a key role in the Supreme Court of Nepal’s 2007 verdict nullifying discriminatory laws against the LGBT community.
Pant had met the education minister in 2008, while he was a Member of Parliament to include a chapter on sexual orientation and gender identity in the school syllabi. The minister accepted his position that the root cause of discrimination was ignorance and prejudice, and agreed to include these topics in the curriculum. With the bureaucratic process initiated, Pant and his team members met officials from various departments, often explaining the same topics over and over again. The change was finally effected this year, with textbooks covering these topics out in the market and schools starting to teach them. Nepal has a single education board which is followed by schools across the country, hence all school children would come to learn of sexuality and gender diversity.
The Blue Diamond society has conducted trainings and developed a toolkit for more than 600 teachers over the last year to sensitize them on the topics, with support from the World Bank. Some of the teachers have formed their own groups to help other teachers and schools. The toolkit provides basic information about sexuality and gender issues while also helping schools identify problems faced by LGBT students, such as bullying and harassment, and propose practical solutions to such issues.
Pant adds, “I know it would be a challenge for teachers and schools initially to teach children with proper knowledge and confidence. However, we have already started helping them out, and this year we would need to expand our efforts much more. While schools are understandably nervous, they are happy that these issues are being covered.”

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

In a Post-AHA Uganda; the Anti-HIV Activist must be like a chameleon!

I know HIV Must Not Win. In a Post Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) Uganda, days are different. There are two forms of courts. The community mercurial arbiter and the brick and mortar courts.

At the community level the sentence is lynching, beating, assault, eviction, isolation, disowning, neglect, maiming and rape ( in a 'power-control world' it is called corrective rape). Advocacy or activism that brings to the fore, say,  LGBT issues also brings out the complexities at hand. From jet-set activism, much needed grass root interventions through to animosity. All these are real time activities whose currency, like beauty can only be appreciated by the beholder. In Uganda it is now official and legal to name that act of homosexuality as a crime. It is criminal. In whatever way it is cloaked, homosexuality has been criminalized. There is even another term that has cropped up: 'Gayism.' I am still wrapping my brain around this term. I wonder if it is the litmus for those who are homosexual as opposed to those who are heterosexual. Will it there fore be the reason to treat ( pardon.....mistreat) those who are said to be homosexual? I am in the thinking mode. The institutions that punish and deter the practice have a lee way. Even the scientists who actually did not put a finger on the non-origins of homosexuality ( the scientific paper lit awareness bulbs as well as fiery furore) had to put a redundant line or two somewhere condemning homosexuality.

The highest office of the land in form of the president then assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. It became an Act ( Feb 2014). The culprit is an individual who fails the hetero-normative standards in a hetero-normative world. Living in this kind of world that is using its kind of lenses still continues as a hurdle for those who had a hiatus pre-AHA time.

The post-AHA world is different. It will have its own issues. This world made pronouncements of cures, any form of cure. Whether the cures will be reckless or meted out in the name of exorcism a death here or there or a vain act as long as the word homosexuality is mentioned will be dismissed with impunity. Social gatherings are enjoyable, comfort or continue to be a reminder that one is not alone. Those that continue to support self determination of homosexuals are nada! No! Nyet!  A medical doctor who has sworn to treat, without discrimination will have to navigate the Ugandan health-care waters very carefully thanks to the AHA. In a health care world, one may face isolation. One cannot be sure of their life now. Especially for visible allies and those suspected of helping homosexuals. The heterosexual self preservation institutions have gone all the nine yards. The saving grace is that the brick and mortar courts engage in reasoned discourse and may stay a punitive hand. On the other hand the community courts can even evict a suspected homosexual off the land!

 If we still have practices that tear human walls, where will the next battle front against HIV be?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Uganda's AIDS Commission behind Dr. Christine Ondoa

Ondoa declares war on HIV\AIDSPublish Date: Mar 02, 2014
Ondoa declares war on HIV\AIDS
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New Director General Dr. Christine Ondoa Uganda Aids Commission chatting with Director General of health services Ruth Aceng Ministry of Health during the fareWell party for outgoing Director General David Kihumuro Apuuli at Uganda Aids Commission office in Ntinda on Friday. Photo/Mary Kansiime.
By Cecilia Okoth & David Lumu               

The new Director General of the Uganda Aids Commission has pledged to aggressively combat the HIV\AIDs scourge.

Speaking at the stakeholder’s meeting on the elimination of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV\AIDs at State House, Nakasero, Ondoa, the former Minister of Health, said that she has a very supportive board at the Aids Commission and that she would work tooth and nail to deliver on the fight against the spread of HIV\AIDs.

“I want to thank the President for appointing me. I have been rejuvenated and with God on my side, I will fight this scourge,” she said.

Ondoa assumed office last week after the commission bid farewell to the former Director General, David Kihumulo Apuuli.

During his farewell speech on Thursday this week, Apuuli cautioned Ondoa of the likely new HIV/AIDS infections set to occur in 2025.

“Our analysis has shown that since 2007, the number of infections was going down. But research also shows that we shall loose 500,000 Ugandans even those on ARVs by 2015,” Apuuli said adding that the number of  people infected with HIV/AIDS will be 2.2m by 2025.

He said it will be difficult to keep in step sufficient resources by then. “But we have also studied with effective brains what must be done to bring down those infections. Therefore, Ugandans should know what must be done.”

Apuuli also cautioned AIDS development partners, “The lives of the people are at stake. Whatever decisions you make remember you are dealing with humans.”

Apuuli pledged to support the organization even after retirement. He served the commission for 15 years since 1999. While in office, Apuuli founded most of the self HIV/AIDS coordinated entities and pushed for the AIDS trust fund.

“Apuuli has been a great advocate for HIV, a mentor, a father and above all a good leader with a unique sense of humour. There is no doubt that he leaves the commission very well positioned,” Said Christine Serwadda, speaking on behalf of the commission’s employees.

The staff welcomed Ondoa and pledged total support and commitment to her.