By Joyce Namutebi
Uganda is in serious need of HIV testing kits, Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) boss, Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli has said.
“The need for testing kits is so big. We want every adult above 15 years of age to test (for HIV/AIDS),” Apuuli said while appearing before the parliamentary committee on health.
He pointed out that all the testing kits there are were being bought by donors. He revealed that in money terms the country needs about US$2.5m (about Sh6.6b) for procuring test kits this financial year. Last year eight million people were tested for the disease, he said.
He said the number of women who know their status surpasses that of men. Currently he said, 68% of women between 15 to 49 years of age know their status compared to 45% men and yet studies show that it is men who spread the disease more compared to women.
Apuuli had been invited to the committee to give views on the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, 2010 that is before the committee for scrutiny. Also present were Jeroline Akubu and Kenneth Rutaremwa from Uganda Law Reform Commission, who took the MPs through the Bill.
The Bill’s object is to provide for a legal framework that is geared towards the prevention and control of HIV, reducing the transmission of HIV, providing HIV testing and counseling services and creating offences for willful and intentional transmission of the disease, among others. The Private Members Bill was an initiative of the parliamentary committee on HIV/AIDs in the Eighth Parliament.
Apuuli said that churches and other places of worship must first screen couples before they wed them so as to have children born without the disease. There are 1.4 million HIV positive people in Uganda and about 376,000 are on treatment, he said.
He opposed the penalty of not more than 10 years, which is being proposed in the Bill for someone who willfully and intentionally transmits HIV to another person. “The penalty is too lenient and our view is that this is very serious.” He proposed life imprisonment for culprits.
He also proposed amendments to Clause 23 of the Bill which requires a medical practitioner or other qualified officer who carries out an HIV test to notify the sexual partner of a person who tests positive.
He said that the commission is working together with the Ministry of Health to set up a technical team to clear messages on HIV/AIDS before they are broadcast.
The committee asked the legal experts to harmonise Clause 41 with other existing laws. The chairperson, Dr. Sam Lymoki MPs also asked the legal experts to give strong justification for a separate law on HIV/AIDS saying there is opposition from some sections including some donors towards the Bill.