Critics Say Uganda’s New HIV Law a Giant Step Backward


A Ugandan bill criminalizing the “willful” transmission of HIV and mandating HIV tests for certain groups is awaiting the president’s signature to become law. Such a law could be a setback in the country’s fight against AIDS.

The bill President Yoweri Museveni will be asked to sign hands out lengthy jail terms for those convicted of intentionally spreading HIV, or attempting to spread it. It also mandates testing for pregnant women and victims of sexual assault, among others.

Ugandan MP Chris Baryomunsi told local journalists he supports the bill because it punishes people who threaten the community.

“The law is not unfairly targeting anybody, but rather it is addressing somebody who has tested for HIV and knows his or her status and, out of malice, intentionally wants to infect others,” said Baryomunsi.

But many experts say the bill is a giant step backward in the fight against Uganda’s HIV epidemic. Civil society and HIV activists have rallied against it. Even the government-run Uganda AIDS Commission refuses to support the bill.

But Dorah Musinguzi, of the Ugandan Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS, says their efforts so far have been futile.

“The Uganda AIDS Commission came out, and the Ministry of Health in some ways. But this has not been bought. A wise nation at this particular moment would have seen what the technical people are advising,” said Musinguzi.

One concern, Musinguzi says, is the effect the law would have on people’s decision to get tested. You can only be prosecuted under the law if you know your HIV status, she points out.

“According to statistics, Ugandans who have tested are 33 percent. Those who have not yet tested are 67 percent,” she said. “If they have not tested when there was no law that threatens them as potential criminals, are they going to test now that there is a law?”

Uganda is not the first to pass laws criminalizing HIV. Paula Donovan, of the New York-based advocacy group AIDS-Free World, says this is becoming a trend in Africa.

“Since about the turn of the century, when there were no HIV-specific laws at all, it appears that there are about 25 countries in Africa that have attempted in one way or another to criminalize specific aspects of HIV. That’s about half the countries in Africa, and it’s expected that other countries will follow,” said Donovan.

Nor is Africa alone. Prosecutions for intentional transmission of HIV are actually more common in the West, says Donovan, although not always under HIV-specific laws.

Despite the growing prevalence of such laws, there is no evidence that they are even necessary, she adds.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that in any country, in any situation, that criminalizing transmission lowers the incidence of HIV. I don’t think there’s any evidence that there is a great incidence of people who are HIV positive who are going around trying to spread the infection to others,” she said.

Civil society activists say they will try to make their case to President Museveni in person before he decides whether or not to sign the bill into law.

Source: voa news

Botox, Tattoo Removal, Now Possible in Kampala


But if you ever need to ditch those wrinkles for a smoother skin, or to remove that annoying tattoo or do hair replacement, you will definitely need it.

Internationally, aesthetic medicine is defined as “a branch of medicine that adheres to scientific-based procedures to enhance patients’ satisfaction with their physical appearance.”

In Uganda, aesthetic medical procedures are provided at Avane Cosmetic Clinic and medical spa along John Babiiha avenue, the International Medical Group and Kampala hospital. Below we explore the dos and don’ts of some of the common procedures.


Botox is a protein, which when injected into a muscle causes it to become inactive or weakened. The most common uses for this treatment is smoothing of the facial wrinkles of the forehead, between the eyes and the corners of the eye and can also be used in the treatment of excessive sweating.

“Once these motor nerve endings are interrupted, the muscles cannot contract. Therefore, the motion that causes wrinkles in the skin will cease,” Dr Chiraag Kotecha, a dermatologist at Avane Cosmetic clinic and medical spa says. “Approximately three to 10 days after treatment, the skin above the motor muscles becomes smooth and nice.”

The effects of Botox last three to four months depending on the amount of protein injected and lifestyle activity of the patient. Do: For the first couple of years, Dr Kotecha recommends frequent treatments (every four to six months) for facial muscles to get used. Thereafter, treatments would be less frequent until a yearly maintenance is usually all that is required.

Don’t: Never let someone unprofessional administer the treatment on you as they may administer too much or too little of the protein.

Laser Hair removal:

Dr Pranav Pancholi, a visiting specialist in advanced non-surgical aesthetic medicine at Avane Cosmetic Clinic, says laser hair removal is more than just plucking out unwanted hairs. It is a medical procedure that reduces the amount of hair growth through a series of treatments, usually over a period of six to eight weeks and should be performed by a qualified physician.

The energy from the laser travels through the hair and destroys the follicle bump containing the cells responsible for hair re-growth,” explains Dr Pancholi. Patients seek hair removal for almost any body part, from the face, legs, arms, neck, back, chest and underarms. However:

Dos: Dr Pancholi advises one to undergo a skin test first to ensure that there will be no adverse side effects. He also advises one to do enough homework about the dermatologist’s qualifications and former clients. Don’t: Never undertake laser procedures if you are on light sensitive medication. Do not seek laser hair removal for gray hair because laser light only responds to dark pigmented hair follicles.

Tattoo removal surgery:

For the last one year, Mary (not real name) has been ridiculed at work for having a tattoo of a star on her left leg. Although she ignored the scoffing at first, it soon got to her and her promotion opportunities were limited because of her outward appearance.

“I was initially influenced by my peers to have the tattoo, but my hubby keeps telling me he does not like it,” she says, “Because it was affecting the attitude towards me at work, I have decided to come to Avane to remove it although it is quite expensive with every session costing me $50 (about Shs 130,000).”

During treatment, special types of lasers known as Harmony XL lasers are used. Dr Kotecha says these are used break the pigment of the tattoo ink, dispersing it in the skin. Dos: Follow all the pre and post-treatment procedures carefully; ask your dermatologist if anything is unclear.

Don’t’s: “After your laser tattoo removal procedure, avoid any activity which submerges the treated area underwater for an extended period of time,” reads an article

Soaking the skin in water for an extended period of time, slows down the healing process and increases risk of infection.

Source; All Africa

Hepatitis E Outbreak in Uganda

Health Minister Christine Ondoa has expressed concern over the rising prevalence of Hepatitis B in eastern Uganda, despite efforts to contain the deadly disease.

“Ministry and district health officers are working tirelessly to see that we solve this problem; we call upon all people to embrace preventive measures because it is better than cure,” Ondoa said in Soroti last week,

Like HIV, Hepatitis B spreads through sex, mother-to-child transmission, sharing of sharp objects and blood transfusion. But it is 15 times more infectious than HIV/Aids.

The disease is incurable and difficult to detect, and causes liver cancer and chronic liver failure.

“The government has already introduced medicine for children below one year,” Ondoa said, as the government launched a programme to distribute 21 million nets. “This is the vaccine they get below the left thigh when they are six weeks; parents immunize your children against Hepatitis B.”

Hepatitis B virus infection is highly endemic in Uganda, with transmission occurring in childhood and adulthood. Some 1.4 million adults are chronically infected and some communities disproportionately affected.

Source: All Africa

Pre-Natal Care Goes Mobile in Uganda

Kampala — In Uganda, three students have invented a smartphone application that can measure the heartbeat of a fetus. The device could improve prenatal care in rural clinics, and may even help prevent deaths during childbirth.

Joshua Okello’s first love was medicine. He studied to be a doctor before quitting to pursue his second love: technology. However, his interest in medicine never left him. Last year, Okello and two other students at Kampala’s Makerere University invented a smartphone application that they think could change the face of maternal health care in Africa.

The app is called a WinSenga – “senga” is the local term for an aunt who helps out during pregnancy. It consists of a tiny microphone in a plastic horn, based on the Pinard horn used by midwives for centuries.

“It’s a long cone-shaped device with a hole through it and a flat top. The midwife places it on the belly and listens in. Every midwife in this country has seen it, and that is what they are trained with,” said Okello.

The sound the horn picks up is fed into a smartphone that records and analyzes the fetal heartbeat. From there, said Okello, the WinSenga suggests different courses of action.

“Say you have a baby and we detect that the heartbeat is less than 120 beats per minute. That is a problem. So immediately, we pop up something that says ‘Please, we suggest that you could do A, B, C, D,'” explained Okello.

The device is not yet fully functional, but last year Okello and his partners won a $50,000 grant from Microsoft – the “Win” in WinSenga is short for Windows. They are now developing their app from a Microsoft-funded technology incubator at the university, set up to encourage Uganda’s nascent tech sector.

Having a mobile device could make it easier for health care workers to reach women in remote villages, said Okello. The final result should also be cheaper than the machines currently in use.

“We are getting a solution that’s cheaper, which means that more clinics are going to get it. If we could get Huawei or I don’t know who to give us phones for free, we are looking at a solution that’s less than $100,” said Okello.

Juliet Birungi, an obstetrician who has tried the WinSenga, says she sees another use for it. In understaffed hospitals like the one she works in, she says, the WinSenga could be even more helpful if it is attached to a mother’s belly during labor and delivery, monitoring the state of the baby.

“You have so many mothers in labor, and we do not have enough staff. You find that while the mother is laboring here, the other one is delivering, the other one is bleeding. So when you come, you are able to look at the recording,” said Birungi.

An abnormal fetal heart rate can be a warning sign of labor complications, and could mean the difference between life and death, says Birungi. Uganda’s maternal mortality rate is so high, she adds, that a machine can only do so much.

“Just like all devices, they do not replace the need for a human being who is skilled. The need is still there, and it’s real and it has to be worked upon. But this device would make their work easier, and the outcome would be much better,” said Birungi.

The app could easily be adapted to other developing countries with similar problems, thinks Okello. With a little tweaking, he adds, it could even be used at home by pregnant women in developed countries.

For the moment, however, he and his team are busy preparing for a clinical trial in January, when WinSenga will finally be put to the test.

Source: All africa

Confusing Laws Lead to Unsafe Abortions in Uganda

Confusing abortion laws and reproductive health policies in Uganda have forced women to turn to unsafe abortions and increased the number of unplanned pregnancies in the country, according to a new report, The Stakes Are High: The Tragic Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda, from the Center for Reproductive Rights, the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law.

The report, released today, documents personal stories of women impacted by the widespread and false impression that abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Uganda. In fact the country’s laws permit abortion for women not only to save a woman’s life but also on mental and physical health grounds.

“The perceived illegality of abortion services in Uganda has led to stigma, fear and secrecy—driving far too many women to desperate measures to end a pregnancy,” said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Leaders in Uganda must not only clarify the abortion laws, but also broaden access to information among health care professionals and the public at large about reproductive health care, including access to family planning and safe abortion services.”

Each year an estimated 297,000 induced abortions occur in Uganda, with nearly 85,000 women receiving treatment for complications from unsafe abortion. About 65,000 women experience complications resulting from unsafe abortion but do not receive any treatment. Unsafe abortion is one of the most easily preventable causes of maternal mortality, yet more than a quarter of maternal deaths in the country occur because of unsafe abortion, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Health in Uganda.

Many of these deaths are in large part because of confusion and ignorance of reproductive health laws, as women are often discouraged from accessing legal reproductive health services.

“Studies have shown that women’s ability to exercise reproductive autonomy, including access to effective contraception and safe abortion services, leads to better health for women,” said Dr. Charles Kiggundu, Vice President, Association of Obstetrics and Gynecologists of Uganda.

“It is tragic that women in Uganda continue to lose their lives as a consequence of their ability to become pregnant.”

Personal interviews in the report highlight how women are discriminated against when seeking modern contraception or legal abortion services.

Source: Reproductive Rights