Civil Society Organisations Call on the President of the Republic of Uganda to Refuse to Sign Controversial Ugandan HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act, 2014

Posted by Mutaleni on May 23, 2014

His Excellency Yoweri. K. Museveni

The President

Office of the President

Kampala

Uganda

 

21 May 2014

RE: Civil Society Organisations Call on the President of the Republic of Uganda to Refuse to Sign Controversial Ugandan HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act, 2014

The Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, International Community of Women living with HIV Global, Global Network of People living with HIV and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, along with the under-signed civil society organisations, working to advance health and human rights in Africa and the world, including members of the Ugandan HIV Bill Coalition, call on you to show leadership by refusing to sign the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2014, passed by Parliament on 13 May 2014, into law in its current form and referring it back to parliament for review.

While we commend Your Excellency and the Government of the Republic of Uganda for showing political leadership in attempting to reduce the rates of HIV transmission and increasing domestic funding for HIV, we are concerned by the many problematic provisions in this bill, which along with the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 will negate the gains made by Uganda over the past three decades.

The HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act, 2014, incorporates provisions which criminalise ‘attempted’ and ‘wilful’ transmission of HIV with a five year imprisonment term, provide for the mandatory testing of   pregnant women and permit healthcare workers to forgo confidentiality and to unilaterally disclose a patient’s positive status to an “at-risk” partner or household member.

Not only do these provisions violate the rights to equality, autonomy, bodily integrity and privacy guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda but they also go against evidence based effective rights-based approaches to HIV, as embodied in the East African Community HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Act of 2012. From a public health perspective the implementation of these provisions increases the risk of an escalation in the recent surge in the number of new HIV infections, which over the past 5 years have increased from 6.4 to 7.3%. The implementation of the provisions of this Act will not only place a heavy burden on the already burdened state, but will place an onerous task on Uganda’s judiciary which will be obliged to adjudicate these matters.

Evidence has shown that the promulgation of laws that criminalise HIV exposure, transmission and non-disclosure is not an effective solution to addressing the HIV epidemic, as these laws have not proven to prevent new HIV infections or to increase safer sex. On the contrary, laws which criminalise HIV raise serious human rights and public health challenges and present a further barrier to the testing, treatment and anti-stigma efforts of the Ugandan HIV response, as people living with and at higher risk of HIV will shy away from healthcare facilities for a fear of prosecution.

Also of concern is that laws that criminalise HIV transmission and exposure have been found to disproportionally affect already marginalized groups, including women, who are often unable to enforce safer sex due to gender inequality, are often the first to know their status through antenatal care and are blamed for bringing HIV home. They are often unable to disclose due to fear of physical harm and eviction due to high levels of gender-based violence and inequality in most African communities.

Therefore, we call on Your Excellency to:

  1. Decline to assent to the Act in its current form and to refer it back to Parliament for review of the problematic provisions (amongst others Clause 39 on attempted Transmission, clause 41 on Intentional Transmission and Clause 21e on Exceptions to Confidentially) using the East African Community HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Act of 2012 as a standard;
  2. Call for the effective enforcement of existing criminal or public health legislation in the rare cases where there is clear evidence of wilful transmission;
  3. Address the root causes that drive the demand for criminalisation such as promoting the equal status of women, protecting women against violence and addressing cultural practices that render women more vulnerable to HIV;
  4. Call for the implementation of a rights-based response to HIV, including implementing the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law; and
  5. Facilitate dialogue between members of parliament, people living with and at higher risk of HIV, researchers, civil society organisations responding to HIV and other stakeholders on this Act.

The Republic of Uganda, which has been heralded as being one of the first African countries to provide widespread access to prevention, treatment and care in the early years of the epidemic, cannot afford to risk backsliding now.

Signed:

  1. AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)
  2. Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET)
  3. Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum  (HRAPF)
  4. Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP)
  5. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR
  6. Friends of Rainka
  7. Nkhensani Mavasa
  8. Children Education Society(CHESO)
  9. GNP+ 
  10. AIDS Legal Network (ALN)
  11. Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF)
  12. Tanzania Sisi Kwa Sisi Foundation (TSSF)
  13. The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA)
  14. Goomany Centre
  15. Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network 
  16. Community Fight against GBV and HIV/AIDS (COFAS)
  17. Treatment Action Campaign
  18. Ebony Johnson -  USA
  19. Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  20. ZNNP+
  21. International HIV/AIDS Alliance
  22. Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+)
  23. Vincent Manning – Chairperson – Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support
  24. Health GAP (Global Access Project), USA, Kenya, Uganda
  25. The Well Project
  26. KELIN
  27. The International Centre for Research on Women (East Africa)
  28. Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA)
  29. Positive Women Inc. New Zealand
  30. Women of Asia Pacific Plus (WAP+)
  31. Straight Arrows Inc. ( Australia) 
  32. LGBT Voice Tanzania
  33. Sero Project, Inc.
  34. 34.   SAHRiNGON Tanzania Chapter
  35. Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)
  36. ACT UP New York
  37. HIV Justice Network
  38. AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention
  39. International HIV/AIDS Alliance
  40. Sonke Gender Justice
  41. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
  42. Engender Rights Centre for Justice (ERCJ)
  43. SERES (Portugal)
  44.  Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
  45. CEDOVIP- Center for Domestic Violence Prevention
  46. NAFOPHANU - National Forum of People Living with HIV in Uganda Network
  47. AIC – AIDS Information Center
  48. KCCC – Kamwokya Christian Community Center
  49. AIDE – Uganda
  50. HEALTH GAP
  51. HEPS UGANDA – Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development
  52. WONETHA – Women’ Network on Human Rights Advocacy
  53. UWONET – Uganda Women’s Network
  54. UNASO – Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations
  55. MAMAS CLUB
  56. NCG (U) – Nordic Consulting Group
  57. ICWEA – International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa
  58. MILD MAY-Uganda
  59. GCOWAU – Global Coalition of Women Against HIV in Uganda
  60. CEPARD – Center for Participatory Research and Development
  61. POMU – Positive Men’s Union
  62. TASO – The AIDS Support Organisation
  63. HRAPF – Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum
  64. LUCOHECO – Lungujja Community Health Caring Organisation
  65. NACWOLA – National Community of Women Living with AIDS
  66. UYAF/RHU – Uganda Youth Awareness Forum
  67. NGEN+ -  National Guidance and Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV (Uganda)
  68. UYP – Uganda Young Positives
  69. HAG – Health Rights Action Group
  70. UHRN OUT REACH – Uganda Harm Reduction Network
  71. SALT – Support on AIDS and Life through the Telephone
  72. LASPNET – Legal Aid Service Providers’ Network
  73. CEHURD – Center for Human Rights and Development
  74. ACORD – Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development
  75. UHSPA – Uganda Health and Science Press Association
  76. UNYPA – Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS
  77. AAV UGANDA -  Action Against Violence Uganda
  78. MUSLIM CENTER  FOR  JUSTICE & LAW