Ugandan sex workers petition Parliament over HIV bill
Monday, 13th December, 2010
By Madinah Tebajjukira
SEX workers have petitioned Parliament over the HIV prevention and control bill which they say promotes discrimination among some people and that it violates human rights. Through their umbrella organization:Womens Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), the sexual workers petitioned the Speaker of Parliament demanding an urgent action on some clauses of the bill which seeks to control the spread of HIV in Uganda.
Led by WONETHA executive director Macklean Kyomya, the sex workers want Parliament to review clauses which call for mandatory testing of HIV, mandatory disclosure of a persons HIV status and the criminalization of intentional spread of HIV. We know that a large majority of the Ugandan public have moral objections to the work we do. However, is that a good enough reason to shut us out, ignore us and push us away when we are an integral and undeniable part of society that cannot be wished away, reads the petition.
The HIV Prevention and Control Bill 2010, which is under scrutiny by the Parliamentary committee on HIV/AIDs, if enacted, it requires mandatory disclosure of ones HIV status to sex partners. The bill states that a medical practitioner who carries out an HIV test will give an HIV-positive person reasonable time to disclose his or her status to the partner. However, if the person fails to do so, the doctor on behalf of the client, will disclose to the partner. It also gives powers to a medical doctor to disclose to people who are in close and continuous contact with an HIV-positive person if there could be a risk of them getting HIV through this person. In addition any person, who transmits HIV to another person knowingly, commits an offence and upon conviction is liable to five years in prison.
Many non government organizations have persistently opposed the above clauses, saying the bill if not reviewed is a threat to the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, especially women and children. Human rights NGOs urge that the mandatory disclosure of ones HIV status threatened women with increased domestic violence and abuse. The Speaker, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, promised to forward the petition, to the relevant committee of Parliament- HIV/AIDS committee to review it. The sex workers emphasized that if the bill is enacted in its current form, it will discriminate the sexual workers from the HIV prevention and care.