Ugandan lawmakers new HIV/AIDS bill
The criminalization of the intentional spread of HIV is a serious and scary issue.
In the United States, 34 states have laws that criminalize HIV transmission or exposure. The statutes are often so vague that spitting, coughing or sneezing could be considered a criminal activity — despite all scientific evidence that the bodily fluids involved do not carry HIV.
In Canada, the laws are also murky. People living with HIV/AIDS are required to disclose their status to their sexual partners. Since 1989, at least 98 people have been charged and 90 percent of those convicted have gone to jail.
Some of the confusion around the non-disclosure laws in Canada is caused by the term “significant risk” — the legal system has failed to clearly define the term. What should be deemed as low-risk behaviour, such as oral sex, could be seen as high-risk behaviour by the courts.
So, if Canada has trouble defining the law, what is going to happen in a country like Uganda?
On Wednesday, July 13, Ugandan lawmakers backed the new HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, which seeks to criminalize the intentional spread of HIV/AIDS. The parliamentary HIV/AIDS committee chairperson, Rosemary Najjemba Muyinda, told members of the committee, “the bill, once passed into law, will protect those without HIV from being infected."
In an article in The Monitor, Muyinda said the principles in the bill are aimed at combating the intentional spread of HIV/AIDS. "For example, why should someone infect another with AIDS intentionally? That is a crime that should not go unpunished," she said.
Not surprising, the bill has faced a lot of criticism from human-rights advocates. They argue that the bill, which legislates for mandatory HIV testing and forced disclosure of HIV status, violates human rights and threatens the progress the country has made in fighting HIV/AIDS. People prosecuted under the bill can serve up to 10 years in prison and, according to The Monitor’s article, even mothers “who transmit HIV to their infants after birth through breast milk would also be subject to criminal prosecution.”
The question is: do they have enough clout to stop the bill from passing?