Minister of Health Ummy Mwalimu justified the move by arguing that the products encourage homosexuality.
Photo by: Olivier Dubuquoy / Doctors of the World UK / CC BY-NC-SAMysterious visitors started drifting in on the second morning of a mid-December training for Tanzanian reproductive health providers.
First, organizers said, a woman entered the conference room of the Dar es Salaam hotel, announced herself as a BBC journalist and took a seat.
As the participants broke up for lunch, non-uniformed security officials swarmed the hotel, according to organizers and witnesses.
Together with the unexplained attendees, they shut down the meeting and detained eight of the participants.“They were put in police cars with sirens and everything,” Karugu said.
That includes the United States and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which make outsized contributions to Tanzania’s health sector.
Homosexual encounters in Tanzania are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Over the past year, officials have raided a well-known civil society group, suspended HIV projects aimed at men who have sex with men and banned the distribution of lubricants.
As a result of the apparent crackdown, the groups at the December meeting as well as others working in the sector are dramatically restricting the health services they offer — not just to MSM but to all key populations, out of fear that they will draw the government’s ire.
Doctors of the World, an international organization, works to integrate HIV-related services into primary healthcare in Tanzania.
The general adult HIV prevalence rate in the country is 5.1 percent, according to the ministry of health but much higher in key populations.
Days later security forces raided the offices of local NGO Community Health Education Services and Advocacy, which provides health education and services to key populations, including MSM.“The point was to see if they were promoting homosexuality,” said Karugu, whose organization has provided support to CHESA in the past.