News / Africa

    HIV Prevention Act Angers Ugandan AIDS Activists

    FILE- Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, June 10, 2014.
    FILE- Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, June 10, 2014.

    Uganda’s president recently signed the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act into law.  The bill criminalizes the transmission of HIV and also enforces mandatory testing.  Such provisions have upset activists who want to de-stigmatize Uganda’s HIV-positive community.  

    The country's parliament passed the act in May. President Yoweri Museveni signed it act into law July 31.  

    Health advocates say they are alarmed by a number of passages in the bill that sanction forced disclosure, criminalize transmission and mandate testing for certain groups.

    Asia Russell, the Director of International Policy with Global Access Project, explains why these passages are so troubling.

    “This act, contrary to best practice, to human rights, to evidence of what works in contexts like Uganda, would actually criminalize HIV," she said.  "And what we’ve seen is that in contexts where knowing your HIV status can be used as a criminal liability against you, it actually makes people hesitate.  And the last thing we need is one more reason for people at greatest risk of infection to hesitate before seeking a test.”

    Uganda was originally a leader in working to reduce AIDS rates.  After the disease arrived in the country in the 1980s, officials opened up the first voluntary HIV counseling and testing clinic in sub-Saharan Africa.  

    Media campaigns and the nationwide "ABC" program -- promoting abstinence, being faithful and condom usage -- helped bring down the HIV infection rate from 18 percent in 1991 to just under 6 percent in 2002.

    More recently, though, the country has seen about 140,000 new HIV infections per year, pushing the infection rate back up to 7.2 percent.  Russell says that a lack of applying established practices known to work is to blame.

    “... What’s needed is an accelerated, intensified effort by government, by donors, by civil society to reach everyone living with HIV with testing, with access to treatment and with counseling … A country like Uganda can actually reach an end to the AIDS epidemic," she said. "That’s what science shows us -- it’s an incredibly exciting time.  Thus the cruel irony that in defiance of that evidence, Uganda has pursued this highly flawed law.”

    Russell says criminalizing transmissions will discourage sex workers and Uganda's LGBT community from seeking treatment.  She says for this reason, even some Ugandan health officials are against the new law.  

    "And that’s why even the AIDS Control Program at the Ministry of Health and the Uganda AIDS Commission have acknowledged that this law will take this country a step backwards, she said. “So it’s not only civil society it’s also members of the government who are speaking out, not loudly enough, but speaking out against this law.  We only hope it’s not too late.”

    Activists say the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act does have some positive aspects.  They say it sets up provisions for a nationwide fund for HIV care, and outlaws discrimination against HIV-positive individuals in workplace and schools.

    Supporters of the law argue the government has a responsibility to protect against purposeful transmission of HIV.  

    A local marketing consultant, Godfrey Mugisha, prefers those government protections.

    “I am totally for the notion that people who knowingly infect other people need to be prosecuted,” he said. “People who have had a chance to get tested have been availed with information on how to have safe sex and to prevent themselves from infecting other people.  So anyone who goes ahead and knowingly infects another person …. That is criminal. … So basically I feel like the government is doing its job.”

    Many countries throughout the world, as well as some parts of the United States, have also criminalized attempted transmissions of HIV.  While such laws haven’t been shown to curb the virus, many feel safer because they view people who withhold or lie about their status as a public health threat.

    Although advocates contend that the HIV Prevention and Control Act will do the opposite of what it intends, both sides can agree that they’d like to see the government focus on testing, counseling, anti-retroviral therapy, and de-stigmatization of HIV patients in the coming years.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora