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MSMGF Condemns Vicious Murder of David Kato

Violent death of human rights defender a call to action against global epidemic of homophobia

(Oakland, January 27, 2011) - The Global Forum on Men Who Have Sex with Men and HIV (MSMGF) is shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden loss of David Kato, an intrepid and outspoken activist who fought tirelessly for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda. David's life and work against the twin plagues of homophobia and HIV were cut short by a brutal act of violence, a tragedy that will linger in the hearts of his colleagues in the global HIV community for years to come. Just as we demand that the local authorities carry out a prompt and thorough investigation into David's murder, it is incumbent upon all of us to examine and interrogate the forces that produce these atrocities around the world on a daily basis.

David's death followed a series of troubling events that unfolded in Uganda in the months before his murder. Rolling Stone, a start-up tabloid, tried to build a following by publishing the names, photographs and addresses of what it called "Uganda's Top Homos," including David's, under the headline "Hang Them." Following the publication, David received a number death threats targeting him and other people identified as homosexual. All of this took place in the context of Uganda's infamous "Anti-Homosexuality Bill," calling for sentences of life in prison and possible execution for those who would engage in same-gender sexual activity.

The recent events in Uganda are horrifying, but they are not isolated. They are symptoms of a sweeping global phenomenon of ignorance and homophobia that hits LGBT people from all sides. Homophobic discrimination fans the flames of HIV by restricting access for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people to life-saving education, support and health services, leaving these communities particularly vulnerable to the virus. But when MSM and transgender people bravely stand up and fight for their rights to health and well-being, they are often confronted with hostility and violence from their own families, neighbors and governments.

Homophobia is not a benign disposition that can be left unchallenged without consequence. It is an insidious and powerful force that has entrenched itself in all corners of our world, evident from the 250 LGBT people reported murdered in Brazil last year alone to the current election in Zambia where politicians accuse opponents of supporting gay rights in order to damage their reputations.

"David Kato's death happens against a backdrop of daily reports of brutal torture and assassination-style murders of LGBT people worldwide" said MSMGF Executive Officer, Dr. George Ayala. "HIV and human rights violations continue to elude us because we are also waging the bigger battles against homophobia, bigotry and ignorance. LGBT people are under siege."

The MSMGF calls on all stakeholders in the global HIV response - including funders, implementers, governments, civil society, family and friends - to take seriously the role that homophobia plays in both HIV epidemics and widespread human rights violations around the world; to actively denounce incidents of homophobia everywhere they occur; to reject homophobic approaches in national and international HIV programming; to urgently scale-up integration of human rights and HIV services; and to robustly fund these efforts as a vital priority in the HIV response.

"It is important that people realize that you do not have to have a certain pedigree or background to make an impact," said Krista Lauer, MSMGF Policy Associate. "You do not have to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a citizen of any particular country, or a member of the LGBT community to share the burden of this outrageous injustice. You must simply believe in the universality of human rights and be willing to stand up for them."

The Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) is an expanding network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM. Guided by a Steering Committee of 20 members from 18 countries situated mainly in the Global South, and with administrative and fiscal support from AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), the MSMGF works to promote MSM health and human rights worldwide through advocacy, information exchange, knowledge production, networking, and capacity building.


Additional statements on the death of David Kato include:

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG): Statements/SMUG_Kisule.pdf   

Human Rights Watch:   

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:  


Jack Beck  | Communications Associate

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF)
436 14th Street, Suite 1500

Oakland, CA 94612
P: 510.271.1956

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