Uganda: Clerics Plot Mandatory HIV Testing

A Ugandan woman undergoing tests (file photo).

The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) yesterday launched a mass campaign to check whether sexual partners to HIV-positive people know their status and or are on treatment.

Addressing journalists at their offices in Mengo, the Council’s secretary, Msgr Charles Kasibante, said in a statement read on behalf of his chairman and Uganda Mufti Shaban Mubajje that community and faith leaders are required to take HIV test to inspire their followers.

“Having HIV/Aids is no longer a death sentence. When you know your status, you will be immediately enrolled on treatment. Current evidence shows that a substantial number of men are not aware of their HIV status,” he said. Asked how they hope to persuade particularly men to test, IRCU Health and HIV programme manager Charles Sserwanja said they will use their grassroots networks and facilities to track down partners to HIV-positive people.

Such people, he said, will be followed in person and persuaded to take a test.
“We have our schools and hospitals. If a child comes to school and we find him or her HIV positive, we shall look for the parents and test them to know if they are on treatment and if they are not, we shall enroll them immediately,” he said.

Health information is confidential in medical practice and it remained unclear if the approach the Council is adopting would not offend Uganda’s legislations, including the one on HIV/Aids.

Mr Sserwanja said they plan to approach targeted individuals even at their residences and will, through counselling, get them to enroll on treatment if infected. This will apply to singles and couples, he said.

“If you are a woman and you come to our facility and you test positive, you will have to disclose the person you had sex with and we shall go for that person also to test and enroll them on treatment in case we find them positive,” he said.

IRCU is an umbrella organisation which brings together different religious denominations in the country to handle issues of faith and development. One of their joint programmes is on HIV/Aids.

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