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New Vision
Uganda: Civil Society Opposed to Mandatory HIV Testing
<p>Moses Walubiri</p>
March 1, 2013

Civil Society organizations (CSOs) have called for a repeal of mandatory HIV testing clause as envisaged in the HIV/AIDS and Control Bill, 2010, saying such a policy would drive the scourge "underground" instead of scaling down the recent increase in infections.

The clause is one of the four that representatives of 42 CSOs want deleted as consultations about a bill tailored to creating an enabling environment to manage the epidemic enters its final phase.

Other 'vile' clauses include; disclosure of HIV/AIDs status to third parties, discretion by medical personnel to disclose one's HIV status to one's sex partner, and the criminalization of intentional and attempted transmission of HIV/AIDS.

"AIDS is a very complex disease and if this bill becomes law, the country should brace itself for a complex and difficult law to implement," one of the CSO representative, Leonard Okello, told MPs on the committees of Health and HIV/AIDS - stopping short of questioning the rationale of the bill.

Dora Kiconco, a social justice lawyer specializing in health and gender rights said mandatory HIV testing will compound stigma against HIV/AIDS sufferers, increase violence against women and "drive thousands of people in need of antiretroviral therapy off the treatment radar."

However, MPs Dr. Lulume Bayiga, Dr. Medard Bitekyerezo and Beatrice Anywar were in support of the clause, saying it would come in handy, especially in instances where people intend to marry.

Initially deemed a success story in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Uganda has experienced a surge in the scourge prevalence, with Ministry of Health AIDS indicator survey report of 2011 indicating 6% and 8.3% prevalence rate among women and men respectively.

And the situation has not been helped by apathy towards voluntary HIV/AIDS testing, with only 25% of Ugandans aware of their status. Ends.