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Hastings International and Comparative Law Review

Abstract

An increasing amount of medical and human rights literature indicates that gender-based violence (GBV) can increase women's risk of HIV infection. Conversely, disclosed HIV-positive status can itself leave women vulnerable to marginalization and abuse.

However, the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill (HIV Control Bill) currently pending before the Ugandan Parliament presents a paradox of protection. Advocates fear its mandatory testing, disclosure, and criminalization provisions will (a) discourage women from accessing health services, and (b) render women who disclose their HIV positive status vulnerable to GBV, marginalization, and threats of prosecution.

This article presents a timely comparison of Uganda's proposed HIV Control Bill and recent legislation relating to the protection of women from GBV, which may already serve HIV prevention goals. It concludes that HIV control laws privileging deterrence of transmission without regard to the gendered realities of HIV transmission or the protection of HIV positive individuals may have negative human rights implications, particularly for women. This potential harm could be mitigated if the HIV Control Bill were amended to comport more closely with international guidelines on HIV and human rights. Notably, laws promoting gender equity and GBV prevention may in fact reduce HIV infection among women and should be pursued.

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