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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | East Africa | UGANDA: New policy keeps HIV-positive people out of armed forces | Care Treatment, Stigma Human rights Law | News Items
Tuesday 16 May 2006
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UGANDA: New policy keeps HIV-positive people out of armed forces

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Army in the spotlight over HIV policy

KAMPALA, 5 April (PLUSNEWS) - The Ugandan army will no longer recruit HIV-positive people, the spokesman for the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), Maj Felix Kuraije, said on Monday.

The UPDF's decision to stop recruiting HIV-positive individuals was made on "humanitarian grounds", because "we shall not recruit an HIV-positive person and expose him or her to the strenuous training that a person with such an ailment cannot manage", according to Kuraije.

"It is a requirement now that someone undergoes a thorough medical check before recruitment. We check for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes."

He said HIV-positive soldiers would also no longer be considered for ongoing training aimed at professionalising the army. "There is no sense in training such a person when you will instead be shortening his or her life."

The administration of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni - himself a soldier - has won international praise for its aggressive stance against the pandemic, bringing prevalence rates down from over 20 percent in the 1990s to about six percent at present.

Human rights and HIV/AIDS activists decried the new policy, saying it was not well thought out and based on ignorance. "This is an unfortunate statement made without research, which shows ignorance and fear of the unknown," said retired Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, head of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

"The army should not employ double standards here, because some of the senior army officers who went under military training recently in Jinja [town in eastern Uganda] are HIV-positive, but they were trained," he noted.

Ruranga, who has been open about his own HIV-positive status, said the army had every right to set standards while recruiting soldiers, but HIV, if well managed, did not prevent soldiers from carrying out their duties.

"People know very little about HIV. It does not stop anybody from doing anything, provided that that person is on treatment," he commented. "They should give these people proper counselling so that they don't feel shunned and neglected; they should be told where to go for help."

Birabwa Nsubuga, legal director of the government's rights watchdog, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, observed: "This policy is discriminatory on the grounds of health, and is in violation of article 21 of the constitution. Discrimination is an issue we have taken up with them before, because they also reject women with very young children and expectant mothers."

However, Kuraije maintained that HIV-positive soldiers in the UPDF were "treated well": they had access to free counselling and free antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, and their deployment was adjusted to give them lighter activities.

"AIDS patients are discouraged from leaving the army, because outside [of it] they will be fending for themselves, while in the army they will continue getting a salary; getting free ARVs that they may find a problem in accessing outside the force," he maintained.


Recent UGANDA Reports
Raw deal for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS,  5/May/06
Integrating traditional medicine in the fight against HIV/AIDS,  24/Apr/06
Access to HIV/AIDS services improving in war-torn north ,  14/Apr/06
Abstinence - the safest or most dangerous HIV strategy?,  4/Apr/06
Global Fund probe reveals massive graft,  3/Apr/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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