Uganda President Yoweri Museveni Signs Callous Law Criminalizing HIV and AIDS Transmission
New law threatens human rights of Ugandans, violates citizens' privacy rights and forces testing on pregnant women
08.21.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed legislation this week criminalizing the transmission
of HIV, a measure that allows doctors to violate confidentiality and disclose their patients' HIV status without consent and calls for
mandatory testing for pregnant women and their partners in violation of their human rights.
While the "HIV Prevention and AIDS Control Bill" was created in an effort to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country, the law as written
poses serious human rights violations that infringe on Ugandans' right to privacy and right to be free from discrimination. The law calls
for a sentencing of up to 5 years for individuals found guilty of transmitting HIV. Furthermore, the bill singles out women in the
country, subjecting survivors of sexual assault and pregnant women to routine HIV blood testing-a provision that fosters
discrimination in the health care system, deepens the stigma of HIV and AIDS among those groups, and discourages women
from seeking essential health care.
"No one should ever fear discrimination or imprisonment when trying to access essential medical care in her or his country-regardless of
HIV status or other health needs," said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Rather than
passing a measure that effectively address the very real challenges that exist in curbing the spread and treatment of HIV and AIDS,
this law inflicts punishment, shame, and fear on men and women in Uganda, including pregnant women who desperately need and
deserve quality maternal health care."
Under this new law, medical and health practitioners are allowed to disclose or release HIV test results without a patient's consent.
Non-consensual disclosure of HIV status places women at risk of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. In 2008 alone, five women
in Uganda were murdered by their husbands after the men learned about their wives' HIV-positive status.
Cases of discrimination against pregnant women living with HIV have occurred in many parts of the world, including Uganda and Namibia
where 15 women who were sterilized without their consent brought a complaint against the government. In 2009, the Center for
Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo brought a case against Chile before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
on behalf of F.S. , a Chilean
woman living with HIV who at age 20 was sterilized during delivery without her knowledge or consent. Her case is still pending before the
In November 2010, the Center and the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers submitted a joint letter to the United
Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women raising concerns over the negative impact the bill would have on
women's reproductive rights.
The Center has worked extensively in Uganda on the human rights implications of lack of access to legal abortion and modern contraceptives.
In November 2013, the Center, the International Women's Human Rights Clinic and the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health
Law at Georgetown Law released a joint report entitled The Stakes Are High: The Tragic
Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda . The report documents personal stories of women impacted
by the widespread and false impression that abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Uganda- when in fact it is permitted for women
with life-threatening conditions and victims of sexual assault.
In 2012, the Center launched its first research report on Uganda's laws and policies
on termination of pregnancy. The report found that the laws and policies are more expansive than most believe, and Uganda has ample
opportunity to increase access to safe abortion services.
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights
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