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Hillary Clinton denounces homophobia, announces AIDS conference
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Hillary Clinton denounces homophobia, announces AIDS conference

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a major speech marking World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced international homophobia and revealed plans to host the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

In her speech, delivered on December 1, Clinton said:

"Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it, but also to combat discrimination more broadly. We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards on behalf of human rights. But it is also a step that undermines the effectiveness of efforts to fight the disease worldwide."

While she did not explicitly mention the government of Uganda, Clinton's remarks were widely interpreted to refer to legislation introduced in the African nation specifying the death penalty for "repeat offender" Gays and Lesbians.

The State Department had previously characterized the Uganda bill as "a significant step backwards for human rights in Uganda."

State Department spokesperson Noel Clay told SGN in October, "we are in the process of raising the issue with the government of Uganda."

Not all US officials seem to have gotten the message, however.

US Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, who sat behind Clinton as she spoke on Tuesday, told Newsweek magazine on November 27 that he would not hold up AIDS relief funding for Uganda.

"My role is to be supportive and helpful to the patients who need these services. It is not to tell a country how to put forward their legislation," Goosby said.

Uganda receives some $287 million in PEPFAR funding for AIDS prevention and treatment.

PEPFAR - the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - was first enacted in 2003 on the initiative of Pres. George W. Bush. It was renewed, expanded, and some of its controversial provisions were removed, in 2008.

The 2008 expansion provided $48 billion for AIDS treatment and prevention through 2013. Uganda is one of the 15 current "focus countries" - most of them African - which are eligible for priority funding because of high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.

One of the significant revisions when PEPFAR was renewed in 2008 was a repeal of the ban on people with HIV/AIDS from entering the US. While this was enacted under the Bush administration, the administrative rules preventing entry of HIV-positive people were not actually revised until Pres. Obama took office.

"President Obama is implementing the repeal of the 'HIV entry ban,'" Clinton said in her speech. "The repeal will take effect early in the new year, and we will be vigorously enforcing it."

"Today, I am pleased to announce that, with the repeal of the ban, the International AIDS Society will hold the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington DC," she continued to applause from the audience. "This conference will draw together an estimated 30,000 researchers, scientists, policymakers, healthcare providers, activists, and others from around the world."

International AIDS Conferences were held every year between 1985 and 1994, and every two years since then. They are the largest ongoing conferences on any health or development issue, and among the most prestigious.

The 2010 Conference will be held in Vienna, with the 2012 event coming to Washington DC.

The last Conference in the US was the 1990 San Francisco Conference. At the instigation of Sen. Jesse Helms (D-S.C.), the US enacted the HIV/AIDS entry ban in 1993, effectively preventing the US from hosting another one until the repeal of the ban.

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