Ugandan rights activists are outraged by a plan by the country to forcefully test HIV in children in schools.
Two of the country’s ministers have approved the controversial call, which the activists term as a violation of human rights.
According to the minister for gender, Janat Mukwaya, the compulsory HIV testing was aimed at reducing the stigma and help infected students access their anti-retroviral treatment easier and faster.
She was supported by the minister for health, Sarah Achieng Opendi, who said it would be a great idea for the citizens in the country to know their HIV status.
The move has however been met with a number of challenges one of which is the absence of a legal framework and policy on parental consent.
“However, it’s impossible and difficult for us to move with compulsory testing because of that condition requiring parental consent and without really having a legal framework,” Opendi said.
Human rights organisations in Uganda have condemned the government’s plan which was first announced in June by a group of clerics, who had said apart from testing children in school, they will also test parents of children found to be HIV positive.
Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/Aids’s Dora Kiconco Musinguzi said that the move is not only illegal but also an attack on people’s right to privacy.
“We find the statement of the minister largely uninformed, it is a blatant attack on the privacy and dignity of the persons that will be affected. It is illegal by all standards – [it] breaches our constitution and the law,” she said.
According to Milly Katana, a public health specialist, the move would only push people at risk of HIV underground thus counteracting the fight against HIV in a country where 1.4 million people are living with HIV as of 2016.
The country director for UNAids, Karusa Kiragu, said the organisation supports voluntary testing instead and counselling.