The International Community of Women Living with HIV condemns the passage of the HIV Prevention and AIDS Control Bill 2010 by the Uganda 9th Parliament. The Bill endangers the lives of Ugandan women living with HIV and undermines Uganda’s already backsliding response to HIV.
KAMPALA, Uganda— The passage of the HIV Prevention and Management Bill represents a dangerous backslide in Uganda’s efforts to respond to HIV. While the Bill may have been intended to facilitate and improve the HIV response in Uganda, it contains many poorly conceived and fear-induced provisions that have no place in a public health and human-rights-based response to HIV. The Bill will weaken Uganda’s HIV prevention efforts and will have a disproportionate and detrimental impact on the rights of women and girls living with HIV.
The International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICW Eastern Africa) are extremely concerned about the devastating impact that this law will have on the daily lives of women in Uganda.
“It is disappointing that the Members of Parliament that we have engaged for so long, have ignored all the evidence, science and reason that we advanced as civil society organisations together with technocrats and scientists and chose instead, to act out of fear and unfounded hysteria – betraying the very will of the people that elected them to Parliament to represent their issues,” said Lillian Mworeko, Regional Coordinator ICW Eastern Africa.
The Bill includes outdated and dangerous provisions for mandatory testing of pregnant women and their partners under Clause 14 (b) and (c). Mandatory testing of people living with HIV is a violation of fundamental human rights and accepted principles of informed consent. Women, who will likely be the frequent target of these provisions, will shy away from medical services, negatively impacting antenatal care attendance. The devastating result of this will be that more children are at risk of being infected through vertical transmission. Currently, by using proven strategies that emphasize voluntary counseling and testing, Uganda is striving towards zero infections from mother to child. However, Uganda’s gains could be lost if women are forced to test every time they visit a health facility. HIV testing of pregnant women, their partners, and victims of sexual offenses, must always be voluntary and conducted with informed consent.
“The fact that Uganda is even considering mandatory testing of pregnant women or victims of sexual violence, represents a major step backwards for a country which showed early promise as an effective responder to HIV. Unfortunately, fear and misinformation have over ridden the facts,” said Jessica Whitbread, Global Director of the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW).
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