hiv transmission
This August, Uganda passed a landmark HIV bill which criminalizes HIV transmission. Experts say that with this law, the dreams of an “AIDS-free generation” have evaporated. With threats of fines and jail times, many HIV positive people will be dissuaded from taking proactive measures for their health.

According to the new bill, HIV sufferers cannot be legally charged with a crime if they didn’t knowingly infect someone with HIV. Thus, many people are now refusing to get tested as a loophole around the law.

Despite the United States, a large funder of HIV programs in Uganda, publicly denouncing the bill since its conception, the Ugandan president has still signed it into law. Even with these multinational efforts from the U.S. and elsewhere, the HIV infection rate has been steadily increasing in the past several years. The overall HIV positive rate is approximately 6.5 percent of the population, but higher among certain at-risk groups.

Among those specifically targeted by the bill are sexual assault survivors and pregnant women who are required to undergo routine blood testing for HIV. Pregnant women with HIV have been the victims of forced sterilization in the past, and the lack of privacy concerns are causing fears that these cases will increase.

While there are measures directly targeting women in this bill, the effects on both men and women are troublesome. Experts warn of the slippery slope of discrimination that this bill will cause. HIV/AIDS is already highly stigmatized in Uganda and this bill is thought likely to worsen the stigmas, shame and misconceptions surrounding the disease.

Many global health advocates view this bill as a setback for the HIV awareness community in Uganda. With a steady increase in the past few years of HIV positive rates, this law is projected to exacerbate the problem.

Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Africa Science News, Human Rights Watch
Photo: Devex