Tuesday, February 5, 2013

 

Ugandans act on East African Parliament’s proposed ‘gay-friendly’ HIV Bil

Ugandans act on East African Parliament’s proposed ‘gay-friendly’ HIV Bill Changing Attitude, October 21st, 2011 Be Kikonyogo Kivumbi reports on Behind the Mask: Gay rights activists in Uganda have started consultations with HIV/Aids and human rights organisations about the proposed East African Community HIV and Aids Prevention and Management Bill, 2010. The activists have been spurred by the fact that the East African Community Council (EAC) of Legal and Judicial Affairs will be meeting next week to develop opinion on the gay friendly East African HIV/Aids bill and advise their home governments. The meeting taking place in Arusha, Tanzania will be attended by the Attorneys General and Justice Ministers of the five East African Community member countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The outcomes shall set discussions for the EAC Council of Ministers set for the second week of November which will be attended by amongst others Uganda’s Minister for EAC Eriya Kategaya. The ministers will be expected to make executive recommendations to the bill which will be tabled in March 2012. Julius Sabuni, a member of the Eastern African National Networks of Aids Service Organisations, a consortium of regional national organisations said on Thursday in Kampala that activists from the region should get ready for the processes to influence a positive agenda. He said when the bill is adopted and passed by the five countries, it will take precedence over national HIV/Aids legal frameworks. For this to happen though, Kabumba Busingye, a Ugandan lecturer of law and gay rights advocate said national parliaments will have to ratify the East African bill and synchronise it with local law. He said as the bill is gay rights friendly, activists in Uganda should engage in advocacy to ensure that Uganda is able to agree to the bill, but also ratify it when it is tabled next year. Kabumba said gay activists should ensure Uganda does not oppose the gay text in the bill. Mary Kamukama, an activist with the Ugandan Health Rights Action Group warned, “We should be careful here. Uganda is fond of partial ratification of laws in East Africa, say the customs Union. We need to ensure criminalization we oppose in Ugandan HIV bill is ratified by Ugandan Parliament when finally adopted.” The gay activists are spearheaded by Uhspa Uganda together with the Uganda Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a grouping of 33 gay friendly activists and organisations. The position they agree on will be presented to Ugandan Minister or East African Cooperation and Uganda’s legislators at the East African Assembly in Arusha. The draft bill indicates that the five member countries of the block want to drop criminalization of HIV/Aids spread in their country specific laws, while adopting a human rights based approach to fighting the pandemic. The proposed bill will synchronize a regional approach to HIV/Aids programming. Mr Sabuni said he was happy that although the bill was initially proposed by CSOs in the region, it has been picked up by the executive in the regional governments. The proposed non-criminalization of HIV/Aids and fostering provision of information to all people in the region, without any discrimination has won the hearts of some HIV/Aids activists and lobby groups in Uganda. Ugandan HIV/Aids activists spent most of last year lobbying Parliament to drop criminalization of HIV in the country’s HIV/Aids Control Bill 2010. Gay activists and pressure groups also petitioned Ugandan parliament, demanding streamlining of gays rights to health in the Ugandan HIV/Aids Control Bill 2010. The Ugandan HIV Bill expired in the last Parliament, but is likely to be tabled again before Parliament breaks off for the Christmas holiday this year. Gay activists, HIV/Aids and human rights groups are looking at the East African HIV Bill critically as it will have over bearing influence on the Ugandan HIV Bill when it comes to Parliament for debate. Dorah Kyomukama, the Executive Director of Uganda Network on Law, on Law and Ethics said the bill was good for Uganda, especially removing criminalization in national legal frameworks. Prossy Ssonko, a board member of LGBTI lobby group, Uhspa Uganda said, “The language of the bill seems promising to gay rights to health.” She added that the bill has a likelihood that homosexuals will be included in information sharing, and access to vital supplies for HIV prevention, care, support and treatment. Ssonko said “But the language is still vague. All LGBTI activists in the East African region need to take interest in the bill to make the language gay specific and friendly.” Part of the bill refers to how vulnerable and marginalized groups will be reached if the bill is passed. It reads in part, “Vulnerable or marginalized groups in relation to HIV and Aids, means any group whose members may have special needs or may experience poorer outcomes if their needs are not specially addressed and includes persons with disabilities, children, women and girls, persons engaging in any form of consensual sexual conduct that is risky or that is prohibited by or under any law, injecting drug users, refugees, immigrants, prisoners, internally displaced persons and mobile populations.” The bill also talks about “Outlawing HIV related discrimination, promote the acceptance of persons living with HIV and members of vulnerable and marginalized groups; and devise appropriate messages and strategies targeting vulnerable and marginalized groups; present messages in formats that facilitate the inclusion of the different categories of persons with disability.”

 

Civil Society Position on Uganda's Aids response, LGBTI marginalisation to health access

MEDIA ADVISORY For Immediate Release: 16 October 2012 Contact for more information: Alice Kayongo-Mutebi, Community Health Alliance Uganda, 0772440108/0701440108 alkayongo@gmail.com Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) Uganda AIDS Information Centre (AIC) Uganda • Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) Uganda • Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) • Health Rights Action Group (HAG) • International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) Eastern Africa • International HIV/AIDS Alliance Uganda • National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) • National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU) The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) Uganda • Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA) Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO) Uganda’s AIDS Response is Moving in Reverse—Immediate Corrective Action Needed Coalition of AIDS Advocates Call for Aggressive Expansion of Treatment and Evidence-Based Prevention to Save Lives, Halt New Infections and End the AIDS Epidemic (Kampala) On the same day of the opening of Uganda’s 2012 Joint Annual AIDS Review (JAAR), AIDS advocacy organisations called for urgent action by the Government of Uganda to support aggressive scale up of treatment and evidence based prevention. (The JAAR is the annual national assessment of performance in implementation of the National AIDS Strategic Plan.) “The additional up-front costs of accelerating treatment and prevention are marginal compared with the massive costs of Uganda’s current, flawed approach,” said Leonard Okello, Country Director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Uganda. “New research shows that earlier, faster HIV treatment scale up is highly cost effective, saves lives and prevents new infections. Together with high impact prevention efforts, Uganda can halt new transmissions and reverse the troubling trends of rising prevalence and incidence.” The coalition released an analysis and report, called “The Change We Need to End AIDS in Uganda,” which describes ten priority action steps needed to drastically improve the struggling national response. These priorities include: 1. HIV treatment—earlier, faster and owned by communities 2. Focus on high impact HIV prevention 3. Endorse and expand save medical male circumcision 4. Expand government funding—through an AIDS Levy and through greater funding for the health sector and the AIDS response 5. Tackle the health systems challenges that hold back the response to AIDS 6. Promote and rebuild community systems that deliver vital prevention and treatment services as well as advocacy 7. Get serious about defending and protecting the rights of women and girls 8. Strengthen HIV testing 9. Close the data gaps—and accept evidence from communities 10. End harmful policies that further marginalize vulnerable groups

 

Uganda’s AIDS response moving in reverse

http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/636492-uganda-s-aids-response-moving-in-reverse.html Publish Date: Oct 17, 2012 newvision By Vicky Wandawa An HIV/AIDS report by advocacy organisations in Uganda indicates that new transmissions are on the rise amidst troubling trends of increasing prevalence and incidence. The findings are contained in a report titled: “The Change We Need to End AIDS in Uganda,” which describes a ten-point plan to halt the trend. The plan is to be presented at Uganda’s 2012 Joint Annual Aids Review, Imperial Hotel during a two-day symposium that ends today Wednesday. Speaking at a media breakfast at Fairway Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday, Alice Kayongo, the HIV/AIDS Policy /Advisor with Community Health Alliance Uganda, noted: “HIV prevalence in Uganda has risen from 6.4% in 2006 to 7.3%. Uganda is the only country reporting rise in HIV incidence, yet we are receiving funding from the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), while other PEPFAR countries have consistently reported declines HIV prevalence.” Some of the ten points include ending harmful policies that further marginalise vulnerable groups; endorsing and expanding safe medical circumcision, and tackling health challenges that hold back the response to AIDS, among other points. Kayongo also highlighted the fact that 57% of people in most urgent clinical need of HIV/AIDS therapy have access to drugs, leaving a whole 43% still not accessing treatment, “Yet therapy improves the patients’ health and reduces transmission by over 90%.” Additionally, Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the Executive director of Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA), blamed public policy as part of the reasons the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is on the rise. “Currently, there is limited dissemination of information on HIV prevention to some groups such as sex workers and homosexuals, yet the virus can cross from these groups to others since they are bisexuals and also from prostitutes to their clients,” he said. “What’s more, one in every ten new infections is between sex workers and their partners, and yet these are some of the marginalised groups from whom information regarding prevention is concealed.”. Similarly, Margaret Happy, the advocacy manager at National Forum for PLHA Networks in Uganda noted that the HIV/AIDS prevention and control Bill 2011 is discriminatory and unethical. “The HIV/AIDS control Bill is questionable and puts women at a disadvantage,” she said. “The law will permit one to sue on grounds of attempting to transmit, or on grounds of transmission.” “This puts the women at risk because usually, they get to know their sero status before their spouses, when they attend antenatal care. The husband can sue yet it is not known who brought the virus first.” Happy further noted the limited treatment coverage, especially following the withdrawal of the Aids Support Organisation outlets in numerous parts of Uganda, is undermining treatment. “The current service delivery without TASO has led to the scrap of linkages with home care and this has had implications like lack of adherence and even deaths,” she said. “Today, patients who miss appointments are not routinely followed up,” she said. “The ministry of health should ensure a mode of service delivery with strong linkage to home care. Also, transmission can be reduced by 90% with adherence to treatment.”

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