Thursday August 21 2014

Civil society groups condemn signing of HIV control Bill


Civil Society Organisations yesterday reacted to the assent by President Museveni to the HIV Prevention and control bill into law, saying it will slow down the country’s progress in terms of the achievements recorded in the fight against the HIV/Aids scourge.

The law is now waiting to be published in the Gazette for its implementation by the courts of law. However, members of the civil society want contentious clauses to be scrutinised before it is published with intentions of also challenging it in court.

President Museveni assented to the controversial Bill into law on July 31, now the HIV Prevention and Control Act 2014, after it was passed by Parliament on May 13, this year.

“The law has been assessed by experts in Uganda such as Uganda Aids Commission (UNAids) and the Uganda Human Rights Commission and found out to be discriminatory, with key provisions that will impede the fight against HIV/Aids,” Ms Lilian Mworeko, the regional coordinator for International Community of women living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) said at Press Conference held in Kampala.
The law seeks to, among other things, criminalise intentional transmission of HIV, mandatory disclosure into Act.

The Bill was passed by Parliament despite some of the clauses being protested by scientists, civil society and the Uganda Aids Commission which called it nonsensical and a big step backward in the HIV response.

Jail term for offenders
Clause 41 of the legislation, which was drafted in 2008, prescribes a maximum 10 years in jail, a fine of about Shs5 million($1,980) or both for anyone who “willfully and intentionally transmits HIV/Aids to another person”.

Another clause prescribes a fine or a maximum of five years in jail for those convicted of “attempted transmission.”
President Museveni’s assent came despite criticism by the Health ministry’s AIDs Control chairman and the Chair of UNaids, Prof Vinand Nantulya, alongside many independent health rights groups in Uganda who opposed the contentious clauses in the bill.

Milly Katana, an HIV/Aids activist said the Bill was passed by Parliament with contentious clauses.