On the possibility of passing the HIV/AIDS bill in Uganda.

31/05/2010 22:01


While it is important to ensure a minimal spread of HIV AIDS among citizens, it is equally important to make certain that the prevention as such doesn’t impede human rights and human right laws. Although the HIV and AIDS control bill has been criticized by many as a violation of human rights, I think some of the propositions in this bill could be effective in prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS. The proposed law includes mandatory testing for HIV, criminalization of willful transmission of HIV, and failure to observe instructions on prevention and cure. Taking criminal action (as long as the said punishment is within the confines of the law) against the spread of a disease as deadly as AIDS is not a violation of human rights. If anything, failure to ensure such action would be a violation of the right to personal security. Willfully spreading AIDS to another citizen is not only ethically wrong, but also spiteful and if criminal action can be taken to ensure that this doesn’t happen, then such action would be commendable. The law in and of itself isn’t a violation of human rights if its application is only aimed at punishing willful blindness.

It is worthwhile ensuring that all citizens are tested for HIV/AIDS so the government is aware of how many people need immediate medical attention and how much money should be spent on such medical facilities in treating HIV/AIDS. If these numbers are undermined, it is possible that not enough resources will be available to everyone who needs them. For the prevention process to be complete, it’s imperative that there be clarity on the exact number of people who need treatment for HIV/AIDS. It’s premature to think that criminal penalties against transmission of HIV/AIDS would be counterproductive because criminal penalties usually have the unspoken right to prevent crime. Even though it is wrong to treat this as a crime, it might be worthwhile in the long run to take such action. As long as criminal penalties are only charged against those who willfully transmit AIDS to others, and not against those who already have AIDS or young girls who find themselves in unfortunate situations, or those who are raped.

That being said however, no legitimate argument can be made for forcing citizens to disclose their HIV status. This is not only ethically wrong but also a violation of one’s right to personal security and privacy. From whatever angle you evaluate an argument in favor of this regulation; you will still arrive at the conclusion that this part of the law would be more damaging than the rewards it could potentially provide. Some extremists could argue the possibility of ensuring that an arrangement is made between the victim and the practitioner to ensure that one’s status remains private. In an ideal world, we can dream of a law that would require people to reveal confidential information and health records whilst protecting their human rights. However, reality dictates that this requires certain mechanisms and discipline that might not be available to a democratic nation like Uganda.