UNAIDS [official website], the UN agency tasked with overseeing the global response to HIV/AIDS, on Tuesday condemned [press release] Uganda's anti-gay legislation, which President Yoweri Musevni has pledged to sign into law [JURIST report]. Though homosexuality has long been criminalized in Uganda, the new law imposes harsher penalties, including life sentences for "aggravated homosexuality," and criminal sanctions for those who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities. UNAIDS urged authorities in Uganda to reject the bill and expressed concern over the public health implications of the law, citing studies that show homosexuals are less likely to utilize testing, prevention, and treatment services when they face the possibility of incarceration and discrimination. Globally, gay men are 13 times more likely to become infected with HIV, and, according to 2012 estimates, there are approximately 1.5 million people living in Uganda with HIV. UNAIDS called upon Uganda to repeal the law and replace it with measures that address homophobia and protect homosexuals from violence.
Uganda's anti-homosexuality law has garnered international attention since it was passed [JURIST report] in December and is viewed by many as a reaction to the growing support of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] in the US and other Western nations. Roughly two-thirds of African nations [BBC report] criminalize homosexuality, according to a report published by Amnesty International earlier this year. Last November, the Ugandan bill was bolstered by religious leaders [JURIST report] who urged Uganda's parliament to pass the bill. In February 2013, Ugandan MP David Bahati announced that clauses mandating the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" would be dropped [JURIST report] from the controversial bill. In 2010 US President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the US Congress in denouncing the bill [JURIST report].