Uganda was back in the international spotlight today – and in bad light.
A BBC Africa investigation has found that a growing number of Ugandans are easily buying fake “HIV-negative” test results.
The worrying trend is pegged partly to desperation and largely to stigma against people living with HIV, who are in the hunt for jobs, according to HIVAids prevention experts.
BBC radio reported today that many people in Uganda were easily buying negative HIV test results from local clinics and printing shops in order to apply for jobs, go abroad andor get married.
Experts say this could hugely affect surveys on the prevalence of the disease and reverse prevention and treatment efforts.
The BBC report said the preferred negative results can easily be bought from local clinics and downtown printing shops complete with a stamp of Mulago, the country’s national referral hospital.
Interviewed separately for this story by The Observer, Dr Peter Mugenyi, the director of the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Kampala, said today, “This [practice] has existed since HIV first came [in the 80s].”
Mugenyi said that in his book, A Cure Too Far, published in the early 1990s, he documented cases where couples forged HIVAids test results to be wedded in the church.
“We need to put this into perspective before we conclude that the vice would increase the prevalence of the disease,” said Mugenyi.
Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the manager Aids Control Programme (ACP), said in an interview today: “There is no reason why anybody should cut corners. The public should take aantage of the available interventions to be helped,” Musinguzi said.
Last November, The Observer reported that some men were hiring men to escort their wives for antenatal care to avoid an HIV test (read Men hire fake husbands to avoid HIV test.)
The Minister of Health Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said he was not shocked by the story. He attributed the habit to severe stigma against people with HIV.
And Dr Mugenyi agrees. He says it’s a question of very bad stigma that needs to be addressed.
“We need to fight discrimination those who are providing jobs should not discriminate whether one is positive or negative and people should not resort to desperate means when they are seeking something,” said Mugenyi.
Source : The Observer