Uganda’s new Aids law sparks a furore

Human rights and HIVAids activists have raised concerns that the recently passed HIV Prevention and Management Bill 2010 will reverse the gains made in the war against HIVAids.

The country is also likely to be a point of reference in HIVAids legislation when Australia hosts the International Aids Conference in Melbourne in July.

“Uganda will be an example of how not to write laws on HIV,” said Asia Russell, international policy director at Health Global Access Project. “Parliamentarians are doing precisely the opposite of what Uganda should be doing to fight HIV.”

On May 13, parliament passed the controversial law, which was first tabled in 2010. Barely a day after it was passed, the country received widespread criticism from human rights and HIV activists, who had asked President Yoweri Museveni not to assent to the Bill.

Dilemma

The law puts President Museveni in another dilemma barely two months after he assented to the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill, attracting global protests, with some donors announcing a freeze on aid.

The HIV law includes mandatory testing for pregnant women and their partners as well as victims of sexual violence. Activists say this exposes women to the risk of violence and abandonment, and allows medical providers to disclose a patient’s HIV status to their sexual partners.

But Kenneth Omona, Parliamentary Health Committee chairperson said it was important for expecting mothers to be tested as they could then take the necessary steps to prevent the unborn baby from contracting HIV if the mother turned out positive.

“This cannot be done unless the mother is tested. For victims of sexual crimes, it helps administer post-exposure prophylaxis,” said Dr Omona.

SOURCE: The East African