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Controversial HIV Bill Passed in Uganda

hiv-ugandaThe new HIV Bill recently signed into law, “HIV Prevention and Control Bill”, leaves no hope for an AIDS-Free future. HIV/AIDS activists in Uganda have been fighting to achieve an “AIDS-Free generation” but with the passing of this new Bill, all of their hard work may have been for nothing.

According to the activist, people will avoid being tested and getting treatment. They fear the new Bill will cause HIV/AIDS to spread, especially for gay men who have not come out, people who push prostitution, and woman in domestic violent situations. Although the controversial law received unanimous approval by the Parliament in May, its passing was just announced by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

With this new Bill, medical providers would be allowed to disclose the status of HIV patients without needing consist. In addition, pregnant women would mandated to undergo testing, along with any sexual partners, and/or victims of sexual offenses associated with them. This Bill has many people concerned, especially since rates of HIV/AIDS cases has dropped to 6.4% from 18% since 1992.

Another concern is that Uganda’s President broke his promise to the executive director with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDSof of not backing the new law. According to Kikonyongo Kivumbi of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association, this new Bill is nothing more than a “populist act”. He also states that the President is fully aware of supporting the law is wrong for the country and its current health problems.

There are many other organizations outraged with the approval of the new Bill. Having been slammed by the AIDS Commission in Uganda, leaders are trying to meet with President Museveni to discuss the ramifications of passing the law.

One of the provisions of the law is that anyone who “willfully and intentionally transmitted HIV/AIDS to another person” will be sentenced to a maximum 10 years in jail, a fine that equals $1,980 US dollars, or both. In addition, this New bill has a provision whereby someone attempts to transmit HIV/AIDS, they will be sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail or a fine.

Unfortunately, in Uganda women are infected with HIV more than men. Not only does a woman face consequences of the disease itself but if tested and found to be positive, the husband would find out and she could be attacked for putting his health at risk. In other words, for some women who have HIV/AIDS in Uganda it is a death sentence, one way or another.

The AIDS Free World states that more than 60 countries currently criminalize the transmission of HIV/AIDS or the failure to disclose an active HIV/AIDS status. Even in the United States, there are 34 states with specific criminal statutes specific to HIV/AIDS. For Uganda, it appears they have deliberately chosen to moralize this disease at the expense of emphasizing abstinence over condom use, along with other interventions proven to work.

Many people feel that by the President of Uganda signing this Bill into law, he believed financial contributions would roll in from the Global Fund and World Bank. After all, in order for the Bill to pass, the AIDS Trust Fund had to be set up whereby money from foreign governments and international agencies would be provided.

However, these organizations were apparently not fooled since just days after the President approved the Anti-Homosexuality Act the loan was put on hold. Now, apparently there are certain things within the Bill that are positive but skeptics want a few things changed. If a meeting with President Museveni does not happen, the Bill will likely be challenged in a court of law.

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