Adrine Nuwamanya woke up to mysterious pains last August. It was time for her to deliver her second child.
And she expected her husband's full support. So, when she informed him about the development, hoping that they would then go to hospital, she was stunned by his reaction - he refused to escort his wife.
Nuwamanya's husband, who ekes a living growing bananas in Ibanda, had heard his colleagues talk about men being compelled to take an HIV test whenever they escorted their wives to hospital for antenatal services.
"He told me he would not be coming with me because he was busy," Nuwamanya said. "But I knew that he feared being tested [for HIV]."
When she insisted that nurses at Kagongo referral hospital would not attend to her unless she went with him, he told her he would get her someone else. The following day, Nuwamanya's husband gave his bicycle to a friend, who escorted her to the hospital. The friend was to act as the father of the baby.
At the hospital, only the mother was tested and she was also given information about family planning and how she could raise a healthy baby.
"He later confessed to me that he did not want to be tested," Nuwamanya told The Observer.
Ever since government drafted a bill, which among things compels men to test for HIV when they accompany their wives to hospitals, many men, like Nuwamanya's husband, have shunned hospitals. Some have found a way around it: hire other men such as boda boda riders, to help them out, while others simply ignore their wives.
Speaking to Kibuku residents last July, the district Health Officer, Dr Ahmed Bumba, reported that many men had started hiring boda-boda riders to escort their wives for antenatal services, for fear of being taken through the HIV/Aids test.
"A good number of pregnant mothers have been forced by their husbands to come with different men for antenatal services. [They] hire boda boda men at a cost ranging from Shs 500 to Shs 5,000 whenever they go for the services," Bumba said.
He added that many men have concluded that they can use their wives' results to determine their own statuses. The idea of mandatory testing is entrenched in the HIV and Aids Prevention Control Bill 2009. It provides in article 14: "A pregnant woman and her partner would be subjected to a routine HIV test to prevent transmission to the baby."
The bill is yet to be passed, but its contents have already sent jitters down the spines of many men. MPs on the Health committee insist the mandatory HIV test is required to help arrest the high HIV prevalence rate.
The chairperson of the committee, Sarah Netalisire (Manafwa Woman), said recently that compulsory testing had been conducted in Cuba and Zimbabwe and the HIV transmission rate in the two countries was going down.
"Most Ugandans are against compulsory testing but we want to reduce the HIV/Aids transmission rate," Netalisire reportedly said.
"Exposure to HIV remains a big challenge and getting to know your status is good enough. We shall lobby our colleagues in parliament on this proposal and we know they shall support it."
In a new poll by Afropinions, which describes itself as an independent mobile opinion polling agency, 55 per cent of people in greater Kampala believe compulsory HIV testing will reduce the spread of the disease. Thirty-seven per cent, though, believe it will not work, while eight per cent respondents were not sure.
In an e-mail to The Observer, Afropinions managing director Evangeline Wangiru said there was confidence among people that the new law could help in preventing the disease.
While Uganda was initially praised for its success story in fighting the disease, recent studies put HIV prevalence among adults of the ages 15-49 in Uganda at 7.3 per cent. The Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) says at least 130,000 new infections occur every year and 25,000 of these are babies who acquire HIV from their parents.
If the bill is passed in its current form, a medical practitioner may notify the sexual partner of a person who tests HIV-positive.
But human rights activists say the move would reverse the gains made in combating HIV/Aids. Winnifred Kataike, HIV/Aids counsellor at Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), says people could opt for traditional birth attendants or private health centres where they might not be compelled to test.
"The bill has not been drafted in a user-friendly way to allow many people to get involved," Kataike complained. "I think a little more sensitisation about benefits of testing can help than force people."
Human rights groups would rather HIV testing was conducted voluntarily and confidentially, after thorough counselling. Uganda Aids Commission chairman Prof Vinand Nantulya says men need more sensitisation, emphasising voluntary HIV testing.
He says if people tested, immediate treatment for those found to be positive would follow.
"We are changing the strategy," says Nantulya. "We no longer want people to wait for their CD4 cells to reduce and then start medication. Some of them become too weak to handle the medicines," he explained.
Hopefully, it is advice many men, including Nuwamanya's husband, can take to heart.