HRC Blog

Uganda Passes New Troubling Legislation

Post submitted by Ashley Fowler, HRC Global Engagement Associate, and Noël Gordon, HRC Foundation Project Manager.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently signed a bill into law that criminalizes the transmission or attempted transmission of HIV. Parliament voted in favor of the legislation in May, despite numerous warnings from public health activists who fear that the bill will make it increasingly more difficult to manage Uganda’s HIV epidemic.

Advocates warn that this will only further discourage HIV-positive individuals from seeking prevention, treatment and care services. There is also the threat of decreased funding, as the passage of this legislation further complicates Uganda’s relationships with the U.S. and the World Bank. The U.S., Uganda’s largest funder for HIV programs, denounced the law in May.

Punishments for those found guilty range from fines to jail time. The bill states that an individual who “attempts” to transmit HIV can serve up to five years, while an individual that “willfully and intentionally transmits” HIV can be punished with up to ten years in prison. Other troubling aspects of the bill are the allowances for compulsory testing in certain cases and the court ordered release of individuals’ HIV status, without consent.

As of now, at least thirty U.S. states still have specific laws in place that have been used to prosecute people living with HIV. Many statutes include references to behaviors that cannot transmit the virus, such as spitting or biting. And even in states without HIV-specific statutes, people living with HIV can be prosecuted under general criminal laws. Activists in the U.S. share similar concerns that such laws only further contribute to stigma and fear, which prevent people from receiving the care they need. The HIV Medicine Association and other activist groups have repeatedly called for the repeal of these laws. 

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