The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has condemned Uganda’s Parliament for passing the Sexual Offences Bill 2019, which includes provisions that further criminalizes people living with HIV.
The bill extends the criminalization of sex work and imposes mandatory testing for HIV and harsher sentences on people living with HIV than the general population accused of some similar crimes.
Although UNAIDS welcomed some aspects of the bill, such as the extension of protection from sexual harassment, violence and sexual exploitation to groups of people such as people in detention and migrant workers, it urged parliamentarians to reconsider the provisions that discriminate against some people.
“I am deeply troubled by the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of portions of this bill that further criminalize and marginalize vulnerable groups of fellow citizens and deny them their human rights, including their right to health,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.
“Targeting people living with HIV, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and sex workers increases stigma and discrimination and undermines the HIV response by preventing people from receiving the HIV treatment, prevention and care services that they so urgently need,” she said.
The number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen by 60% since 2010, with 1.2 million people out of 1.5 million people living with HIV on medicines to keep them alive and well in Uganda. In addition, the number of new HIV infections has fallen by 43% since 2010.
UNAIDS urges Uganda to join the growing number of countries in Africa and globally that are removing unjust laws from their penal codes. The Ugandan parliament’s adoption of the new laws comes just weeks before the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which will take place from 8th to 10th June 2021.