Last Friday, HEPS Uganda joined UGANET, ICWEA and more than 60 civil society organisations from across Uganda in a solidarity walk to the constitutional court to file a case challenging the discriminatory sections of the impugned HIV Prevention and Control Act 2015. The case was filed on 15th July 2015 amidst throngs and cheers of solidarity that characterized the AIDS movement in Uganda in the early days of the HIV response - Over 600 advocates and representation of communities directly affected by harmful clauses of the HIV Prevention and Control Act, colorfully marched through Kampala city to the Nationals’ Constitutional Court as a show of unity. Ms Noreen Kaleeba, the founder of TASO was the chief walker.
“We are seeking the Interpretation of the HIV Act, in light with Constitution of Uganda which guarantees non –discrimination based on any status, right to dignity and equality of all persons,”said Dora Kiconco Musinguzi, The Executive of Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS and the Lead Petitioner in this Petition.
The specific provisions are:
1) S. 18(e), “Disclosure by a third party”– Overly-broad HIV disclosure; is vaguely worded and thus unclear – this raises a legality question, and infringes the right to privacy as per our constitution Article 27.
2) S.41 “Attempted transmission”- which may be misused to arrest/punish innocent Ugandans because it is not specific and it’s difficult to define. This Brings in punishment for HIV exposure even where there is no risk – discriminatory in nature and intent, infringes right to equality and right to dignity – not meeting the objective /purpose for public health goals; has high chances for misuse, can be misused to arrest innocent people and can push People Living with HIV into hiding or even forcing them into the heart of revenge.
The 9th Parliament passed the legislation in 2014 and it was assented to by President Museveni May 13, 2015. Uganda achieved a success story in the HIV fight in the early years because it engaged and educated its communities , worked alongside them to challenge stigma and enjoyed the exemplary leadership of the His Excellency the President . This put us in the lead, and we believe we can remain in this place if we do regress to figure- pointing, criminalizing and putting barriers to access to services - said Noreen Kaleeba, the Founder of TASO!
“While still a bill – we implored the Parliament of Uganda to listen to voice of our community – we were given a deaf ear! We are resilient – we have now asked the judiciary to review our quest
Expert agencies such as the UNAIDS , strongly advise countries to shun laws such as Uganda’s current HIV act that include mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners, disclosure of HIV status by clinicians without permission or consent, and overly broad criminalization of HIV transmission as well as “attempted transmission. Such laws have been proven to be ineffective in fighting HIV, have the effect of fueling discrimination and bigotry. UNAIDS add that such laws are not based on evidence or best practice.