The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is seeking an amendment of the prevention and control of the HIV/AIDS Bill 2010 with a focus on human rights.
The commission notes that the Bill provides for routine testing for certain persons namely the victim of a sexual offence, a pregnant woman and a partner of a pregnant woman.
The commissioners led by Dr Amooti Katebalirwe Wairumba appearing before the joint health and HIV/AIDS committee say the provision does not specifically mention as to whether their consent is necessary. It instead suggests that testing is mandatory.
Others who face mandatory testing include convicts of drug abuse, a person charged with a sexual offence and a person convicted of an offence involving lewdness.
Dr Katebalirwe says the Bill should be amended to the effect that, mandatory testing is removed. Provisions on HIV/AIDS testing should specifically provide for confidentiality, counselling, voluntary and informed consent.
The Bill in sections 19, 20 and 21 recognises the right to medical confidentiality in regard to an individual’s HIV test results except in certain circumstances. However the Bill also permits a medical practitioner to disclose information concerning the result of an HIV test of a tested person.
It also permits a medical practitioner to notify the sexual partner of a person who tests HIV positive where or she is reasonably believes that HIV positive person has been given reasonable opportunity to inform their partner.
The commission states that the discretion conferred upon medical practitioners by this provision is broad and likely to infringe on the rights to privacy and confidentiality in the absence of fundamental safeguards. They add that the international guidelines on HIV and Human rights recommend voluntary partner notification and provides for exceptions in very narrow parameters.
The Bill also provides for offences and penalties relating to the international transmission of HIV and AIDS including attempted transmission. The commission note that UNAIDS recommends that criminalization should be limited to cases of intentional transmission which results in actual transmission of the disease.
Retaining the provision on attempted and intentional transmission of HIV would be discriminatory against persons living with HIV and AIDS. It is for this reason that the commission highly recommends that these provisions be deleted.
Among others, the commission adds that the Bill lacks gender responsive counselling and support services, specific protection for vulnerable groups such as prisoners, women, children and persons with disability. It also lacks provision for legal aid services for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
The objectives of the Bill were to provide a legal frame work that is geared towards prevention and control of HIV, reduce transmission of HIV and provide counselling and testing services.
It is also aimed at creating obligations towards HIV management, aiming provision for the protection of the rights of persons living with HIV and creating offences for wilful and intentional transmission.
The joint committee chairperson Sam Lyomoki said the Bill was a private members aimed at regulating and controlling HIV/AIDS. He also noted that Parliament had prolonged and shelved the Bill and they are going to start handling it.
Dr Twa Twa Mutwalante, MP for Iki Iki County, assured the commissioners that they are going to try as much as possible to finalise the Bill and re-introduce it before it is table for debate.
The committee that has so far met the Law Reform Commission, Uganda Aids Commission will tomorrow meet the civil society organisations.