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Uganda passes bill that criminalizes HIV transmission

Local and international advocacy groups warn measure will impede AIDS fight

Uganda’s parliament has passed a bill, pending since 2010, that permits medical personnel to reveal a person’s HIV status and that criminalizes transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour that could result in transmission by those who are aware of their HIV status. Credit: infoplease.com

Uganda’s parliament has passed a bill, pending since 2010, that permits medical personnel to reveal a person’s HIV status and that criminalizes transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour that could result in transmission by those who are aware of their HIV status. The measure, approved May 13, also prescribes mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners.

A number of local and international advocacy groups are urging President Yoweri Museveni not to sign off on the HIV Prevention and Control Act, saying it will hamper the fight against AIDS, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in a statement.

Dorah Kiconco, executive director of the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS, says the country needs to work with people living with AIDS instead of blaming them and shutting them out of the policy-making process.

The Ugandan health ministry’s AIDS Control Program and the Ugandan AIDS Commission are among those who say the act is flawed and oppose its controversial provisions.

The legislation is “founded on stigma and discrimination and based on approaches that have been condemned by international health agencies as ineffective and violating the rights of people living with HIV,” says Maria Burnett, senior Africa reasearcher at Human Rights Watch.

Uganda’s ethics minister, Simon Lokodo, has accused organizations that provide support to LGBT people, including those that offer HIV education, counselling and testing, of pretending to provide humanitarian assistance, saying they are “promoting homosexuality,” All Africa reports.

“We shall not tolerate and entertain homosexuality in Uganda,” Lokodo says. “I am waiting for the outcome of the ongoing investigations. We shall just suspend and close the operations of these organisations. We can’t allow them to continue promoting bad morals.”

In April, Ugandan police raided an American-funded program that offers AIDS services to gay people in the capital city, Kampala, briefly detaining one of its staff members. Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo alleged that the Makerere University Walter Reed Project was “training youths in homosexuality.”