Tuesday May 27 2014

Activists petition Museveni over HIV Bill


PARLIAMENT- About 80 civil society organisations have petitioned President Museveni urging him not to assent to the recently passed HIV/Aids Bill in its current form.

The activists, in a petition delivered last week [May 23] at the Office of the President, want the law referred back to Parliament for further review before the Mr Museveni can sign it. The petition dated May 21 is spearheaded by the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/Aids, Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, (Arasa) International Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids, Global Network of People Living with HIV and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition. It is also endorsed by 78 civil society organisations.

“While we commend your government for showing political leadership in attempting to reduce HIV transmission and increasing domestic funding for HIV, we are concerned by the many problematic provisions, which will negate the gains made by Uganda over the past three years,” the activists noted in the petition.

They are mainly opposed to article 41 that criminalises intentional spread of HIV. They are also oppose other clauses including 39 [attempted transmission] and 21 on the exceptions to confidentiality.

“We call on your Excellency to decline to assent to the law in its current form and send it to Parliament for review of the problematic clauses using the East African Community HIV/Aids Community, HIV/Aids Act of 2012 as a standard,” reads the petition signed by Mr Sirka Amaambo,the communications officer of petitioners.

The Bill yet to be endorsed by the President incorporates provisions which criminalise intentional and attempted spread of HIV with a ten year imprisonment, provides for mandatory testing of pregnant mothers and their spouses and permits health workers to disclose their patients’ HIV status to partners whom they deem to be at risk of contracting the disease.

Unlike the controversial Ugandan HIV/Aids law, the EAC Aids Bill mandates partner states to provide HIV/Aids related services, guarantee the right to privacy of people living with HIV/Aids and prohibiting HIV-related discrimination and ensuring the provision of quality health care and social services for persons living with HIV and their care-givers.

“Not only do these provisions violate the right to equality autonomy, bodily integrity and privacy guaranteed in the Constitution, but they also go against evidence based effective rights based approaches to HIV,” they noted in the petition.

Uganda is one of the three countries in Africa where HIV prevalent rates are increasing the other two being Angola and Mozambique.
Uganda’s shared vision involves zero deaths to HIV related illnesses, zero new HIV infections, zero stigma and discrimination of those infected and affected by HIV.