(Kampala) Civil society organizations reacted harshly today to the assent by President
Museveni on July 31 2014 to Uganda‟s controversial HIV Bill, the HIV Prevention and Control
Act of 2014, which was passed on May 13 2014 by Ugandan Parliament. This law has been
publicly criticized by officials leading the HIV response in Uganda, such as the AIDS Control
Programme of the Ministry of Health and the Uganda AIDS Commission, entities that repeatedly
told media that this Act would take Uganda‟s AIDS response in „the wrong direction.‟
“We are outraged that Uganda would willingly embrace backwards laws and policies,” said
LilianMworeko of ICW East Africa. “How can we achieve the AIDS Free Generation that
government has committed to when Uganda adopts such a law?”
The law has been assessed by experts in Uganda such as UNAIDSand the Ugandan Human
Rights Commission, as discriminatory, with key provisions that will impede the fight against
AIDS.The controversial provisions in the Act include: mandatory HIV testing for pregnant
women and their partners, and allows medical providers to disclose a patient‟s HIV status to
others without consent. The bill also criminalizes HIV transmission, attempted transmission, and
behavior that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status.
“Why is Uganda avoiding evidence of what works in the AIDS response?” asked
KikonyogoKivumbi of UHSPA. “It is founded on stigma and discrimination and based on
outmoded and unnecessary approaches that have been condemned by health agencies as
ineffective and violating the rights of people living with HIV.”
Mandatory HIV testing and the disclosure of medical information without consent are contrary to
international best practices and violate fundamental human rights. The criminalization of HIV
transmission, attempted transmission, and behavior that might result in transmission by those
who know their HIV status is overly broad, and difficult to enforce.The organizations are
exploring a legal challenge to the Act, considering these violations.
“We are gravely concerned that this Law will drive people at risk of HIV infection, in particular
criminalized populations such as sex workers and gay men, further from life saving services
they need,” said Asia Russell of Health GAP.
President Museveni‟s assentcame despite criticism by the Ministry of Health‟s AIDS Control
Program,and the Board Chair of the Uganda AIDS Commission, Professor VinandNantulya,
along with many independent health rights groups in Uganda. They oppose the contentious
clauses and called on Uganda to fight HIV with more effective legislation.
“For Uganda to address its HIV epidemic effectively, it needs to partner with people living with
HIV, not blame them, criminalize them, and exclude them from policy making,” said
DorahKiconco, executive director of Uganda Network on Law, Ethics & HIV/AIDS.