Activists on Thursday criticised Uganda's new HIV/AIDS bill, which calls for mandatory testing of pregnant women, saying that it violates basic rights and will not help reduce infection rates.
"Forced testing doesn't work," Robert Ochai, executive director of The AIDS Support Organisation, told AFP.
The new bill, tabled in Uganda's parliament on Wednesday, makes testing mandatory for pregnant women and their sexual partners, as well as perpetrators and victims of sexual assault.
"If you make testing compulsory, the individual doesn't buy into the result. For them to take action, like getting treatment for example, they have to accept to outcome of the test," Ochai said.
Defending the provisions on pregnancy, opposition lawmaker Beatrice Atim, who worked on the proposals said, "there is no mother in Uganda who would want to infect their child if it could be stopped."
Ochai also cautioned that compulsory testing will create new patients that Uganda is unable to support.
"What are we going to do with all these people we forcibly test? We don't have the resources to support them. People could run away from their doctors, or their homes. You could have suicides."
The bill also compels people to disclose their status to their sexual partner and allows medical practitioners to reveal a patient's status to others.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement obtained by AFP Thursday that such provisions breach confidentiality standards.
"The HIV/AIDS bill tramples on rights and encourages stigma and intolerance," Joe Amon, health and human rights director at the New York-based organisation, said.
The bill further requires that a person convicted of prostitution, drug use or possession of hypodermic needles be subjected to HIV testing for purposes of criminal investigation.