HIV and AIDS law jeopardizes health and lives of Ugandans

23 September 2014
Anne Stangl and Sephy Valuks

The HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2014, signed into Ugandan law in August, could set the country back decades in tackling the epidemic, which affects over 1.5 million Ugandans. STRIVE researcher, Anne Stangl, analysed the impact of this legislation in a blog that was then taken up by Reuters and shared worldwide.

The new law:

  • criminalises the transmission of HIV
  • makes it legal for doctors to disclose their patients’ HIV status to partners and families without consent
  • calls for mandatory testing for pregnant women and their partners

Ugandan legislators insist that the goal of the new law is to protect the public’s health. However, according to Stangl among others, it is likely to increase the stigma and discrimination faced by men and women living with HIV. It is also predicted to result in fewer individuals seeking and adhering to treatment that could literally save their lives. Women will be particularly affected: research shows that mandatory testing leads some women to avoid antenatal care all together.

For much of the past 30 years, Uganda was a leader in tackling HIV head on. Following the roll-out of antiretroviral therapy there, increases in HIV testing and care-seeking were tremendous.  Home-based testing campaigns achieved over 95% acceptance in most communities. The new law risks losing these gains as well as the lives of Ugandan citizens.

We’ve come too far in the fight against HIV to let discriminatory laws, such as this one recently signed by President Museveni, derail decades of progress and jeopardize the health of millions of women, men and children.

Anne Stangl, ICRW