Uganda: Female lawmakers propose compulsory couples testing to counter proposal for mandatory testing and disclosure to partners of pre-natally tested women in draft HIV law

Female lawmakers have proposed amendments to the controversial 2010 Prevention of HIV/Aids Bill, which if adopted, will make it compulsory for male partners to test for HIV/Aids with their spouses during antenatal care visits. The MPs also proposed that negligent health workers who cause the transmission of HIV/Aids to others while in their line of duty be liable to a five-year jail penalty. The Bill, which seeks to criminalise people who intentionally infect others with HIV/Aids, is before the Parliamentary Aids Committee for consideration.

The Committee began fresh consultations on the proposed law yesterday after the 8th Parliament failed to pass it. The MPs, in consultation with the hospices of the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/Aids , during a workshop yesterday said women have always fallen victims of sexual offences. They say many men have not been going for routine HIV/Aids counselling and testing with their spouses.

Ms Betty Amongi, the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association chairperson, said the proposed law mandates health workers to disclose the status of tested pregnant women to their husbands. “In order to prevent domestic violence and ensure stable marriages, we are proposing that both couples must test together so that they jointly receive the results,” Ms Amongi said.

Ms Amongi said women shy away from attending antenatal clinics for fear of losing their marriages if their status is disclosed to their spouses without them testing together. Ms Noreen Kareeba, the founder of The Aids Support Organisation, urged the government to invest in voluntary testing and purchase of ARVs. Currently, the Ministry of Health programme for prevention of Aids requires that tests are conducted for pregnant women to reduce the risk of being abused.