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Activists blame AIDS spread on rights abuses

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th May 2008 03:00 AM

VIOLATING the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS is a major factor fuelling the spread of the disease in Uganda, activists have said.

VIOLATING the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS is a major factor fuelling the spread of the disease in Uganda, activists have said.

By Fred Ouma and Raymond Baguma

VIOLATING the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS is a major factor fuelling the spread of the disease in Uganda, activists have said.

They noted that efforts should be made to address stigma and discrimination against people living positively to control more infections.

The activists also condemned the lack of and/or disproportionate access to legal services by people living with HIV/AIDS.

This is contained in a report focusing on the pandemic in relation to human rights and legal services in Uganda, which was released yesterday.

The nationwide study done by the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, was the first to link human rights to the spread of the disease.

The initiative is a Nairobi-based organisation promoting good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights in the region.

The programme officer, Anne Gathumbi, who presented the findings at the Kampala Serena Hotel, said Uganda had improved HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment but done little to protect the rights of the affected.

“People living with the disease are denied employment based on their sero-status, women are denied property after the death of their husbands and orphans drop out of school or are disregarded by their relatives.”

The report documents common abuses faced by people living with HIV/AIDS or those at risk, including barriers to education, discrimination in accessing medical care, violations of the right to medical privacy and forced testing.

Beatrice Were, an award- winning HIV/AIDS activist, said the Government had abandoned its role to defend human rights, leaving it to civil society organisations which often lack sufficient resources and expertise.

“As a global leader in HIV prevention and treatment, Uganda must set a better example on HIV and human rights,” stated Binaifer Nowrojee, the director of the initiative.

“You can’t effectively respond to the AIDS crisis without protecting the rights of the most marginalised people.”

The report recommends the enforcement of laws to protect against stigma and discrimination.

It calls for support to community-based groups that offer legal aid to enable people living with HIV access justice.

It added that Local Council courts were not being utilised to address HIV-related rights abuses.

Activists blame AIDS spread on rights abuses

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