Human rights activists Wednesday opposed a “deeply flawed” HIV bill passed by Uganda’s parliament, which they say is discriminatory and hampers the fight against AIDS.
The new law, passed by parliament on Tuesday, foresees jail sentences of up to 10 years for spouses who infect each other with HIV.
The bill also allows medical workers to disclose patients’ HIV status without consent, includes mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners.
It criminalizes HIV transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status.
“This HIV bill is yet another step backward in the fight against AIDS in Uganda,” said Maria Burnett, researcher at international non-profit Human Rights Watch.
“It is founded on stigma and discrimination and based on approaches that have been condemned by international health agencies as ineffective and violating the rights of people living with HIV,” Ms. Burnett added.
“It is a very detrimental bill. The law will chase away people from testing for AIDS,” AIDS activist and medical doctor Margret Mungherela said.
The bill has been pending in parliament since 2010 and was passed even though the Health Ministry’s AIDS commission as well as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and other international agencies discouraged the law.
About 1.5 million of the East African nation’s 36 million people are infected with HIV, according to the Health Ministry.