Uganda police raid U.S.-funded AIDS research program

The U.S. suspended about $4 million in aid to Uganda after the antigay law was brought in

KAMPALA Uganda—Police in Uganda have raided the premises of U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS research organization, accusing employees of promoting homosexuality—straining the already tattered relations with the country’s Western donors, officials said Friday.

Police spokesman Ibin Senkumbi said that officers arrested at least one person at the premises of the Makerere University Water Reed Project, or MUWRP, in Kampala on Thursday, for conducting activities related to the “promotion of homosexuality”.

It is the first time authorities have conducted such a raid since President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill to enact draconian anti-homsexuality laws in February.

“We have been trailing people within that organization who are carrying out activities related to the promotion of homosexual acts,” Mr. Senkumbi said.

MUWRP, a nonprofitable partnership between Makerere University and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, said in a statement that it had temporally halted its operations as a result.

“Until we have greater clarity as to the legal basis for the police action, the operations of the program are temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of staff and the integrity of the program,” MUWRP said in a statement.

The closure is expected to affect hundreds of HIV/AIDS patients who have been relying on the organization for life-saving antiretroviral drugs. MUWRP referred further queries to the U.S. embassy in Kampala. Embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

According to the recently-enacted law, offenders on a first conviction for so-called homosexual acts face a 14-year prison sentence. Subsequent convictions for “aggravated homosexuality,” which include acts committed by an HIV-positive person, could bring a penalty of life in prison.

After the law was passed earlier this year, the World Bank, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands froze as much as $120 million in aid to Uganda. The U.S. has also suspended about $4 million to Uganda’s health sector, although activists accuse Washington of not doing enough to pressure Kampala over the law.

The Makerere University Water Reed Project has been conducting HIV related research in the country since 1998.