‘They paid a guy to kill me’: health workers fight homophobia in Uganda

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10/21/2019

Maria Nantale is enjoying a beer at a rickety wooden bar after a long day’s work. “Forty people tested today,” she reflects. “Found three positives. One of them is in denial. She has run away.” Twice a week, from dawn until dusk, Nantale holds an “outreach” in the town of Mbale, population 76,000. The aim is to combat HIV among those most at risk: LGBT Ugandans, drug addicts and sex workers. Numerous LGBT residents say violence is a common occurrence. Nantale herself says she was thrown into the path of a truck by a man hired by a group of village elders. “They paid a boda boda guy [motorcycle taxi driver] to kill me,” she says. “Homophobes,” she shrugs. Her LGBT activism is what drew the hit, but it was also what saved her. “Fortunately one of our sex workers, he recognised me for giving him free condoms. He put me in his trailer and rushed me to the hospital.”

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