HIV/AIDS Bill threatens Patients’ right to privacy-Activists

HIV/AIDS Bill threatens Patients’ right to privacy-Activists

 

By Solomon Lubambula

 

The recently passed HIV/AIDS prevention and Control Bill not only threaten public health but also the right to privacy as provided for by the 1995 Uganda constitution.

 

Like the anti pornography and gay legalization passed by parliament recently, the HIV/AIDS prevention and control Bill has equally attracted criticisms from sections of the public on grounds that its provisions undermine the fundamental human rights.

 

In additional to castigating clause 39 and 41 that criminalize the transmission of HIV, the HIV/AIDS activists says that the law has other clauses that violate other freedoms like the constitutional right to privacy.

 

Clause 21 of the Act part E, states that a person may disclose the results of an HIV test without the consent of the tested person in circumstances where they endanger other people’s lives. Or in case the disclosure of the test results is authorized by any other law.

 

The Executive Director Uganda law, ethics and HIV/AIDS Dorah Kiconco Musinguzi says apart from public health issues, the Bill poses serious Human Rights violations.

 

Musinguzi says that when a doctor discloses someone’s HIV/AIDS status to other parties without the individual’s consent, it total mounts to encroachment of that person’s right to privacy.

 

She adds that the purpose of this provision that mandates the doctor to disclose someone’s HIV/AIDS test results seeks to protect their partners. So the same bill that highlights the principle of confidentiality under section 19 but it also breaks this very principle by giving the health worker a lot of power to decide who to tell the HIV/AIDS test results and it does not have to be your partner, it can be anybody.

 

Musinguzi says that this exposes a person’s private information not only to his/her partner but also to third parties whom the health worker thinks may be exposed to the danger of that person’s HIV status.

 

Article 27 of the constitution provides for the right to privacy. This constitutional article among other things states that no person shall be subjected to the interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.

 

 

The sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Officer at the International Community of women living with HIV and AIDS Eastern Africa (ICWEA), Margaret Happy says that the ethic principle of confidentiality by the health workers is also jeopardized under this law, which equally frustrates the right to privacy.

 

“Authorizing health workers to disclose the HIV status of a client without their consent is a violation of Human Rights, but it also contradicts medical ethics, because professionally medics are not supposed to disclose anybody’s information without their consent”-Happy sadly noted

 

According to Happy, violation of anyone’s right to privacy and lack of confidentiality by the health workers will increase discrimination and stigma.

 

“disclosing my status for instance to my partner who is not well prepared can fuel domestic violence and we are yet to experience this, because the issue around HIV is not a simple thing, someone must be prepared very well.….so we are going to get more cases of domestic violence, divorce among other evils” Happy stressed.

 

Immaculate Owomugisha, a senior community engagement officer at Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) said although doctors have been given mandate to disclose HIV/AIDS status to the people’s partners, there is no grantee that the doctors will not disclose the same information to third parties who are not even concerned about the status of this particular individual.

 

Because matters of HIV/AIDS are both of a Public Health and Human Rights concern, activists say that during the enactment of this law, parliamentarians ought to have considered and incorporated human rights aspects. It is on this note that they recommend deletion of all references to mandatory disclosure without consent of the person tested by medical practitioners whether to their partner or to any other person

 

The Programs officer at the Unwanted Witness Uganda Godfrey Twesigye says that without a data protection law in the country to ensure the enjoyment of the right to privacy; such important personal information is at risk of being misused.

 

Stressing the need for a proper and safe way of storing important data like health test findings, Twesigye noted that in addition to having mechanisms like the HIV/AIDS records centre, the country needs Data protection laws that must be strictly enforced.

 

It is now upon government to enact a law on data protection to ensure that even health workers do not just disclose people’s health records anyhow.

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Public cautioned over online businesses

In the struggle to make ends meet in the harsh economic times, Ugandans are fast to take up any economic advantage of presented. And now with the technological advances like the online business, and because of economic pressures, most Ugandans have blindly embraced the opportunities that come a long with such developments.

However the police force has warned the public especially with business interests via internet, not everything that glitters is gold.

This followed the arrest of a 35 year old resident of seguku Ronald Mulamuzi over charges of fraud via internet networking businesses. According to the Kampala Metropolitan Police, Mulamuzi is the mastermind behind the several websites that have defraud many Ugandans who engage in internet networking businesses.

Warning the general public about the online business networks, this week, the Kampala metropolitan Spokesperson Patrick Oyango revealed Mulamuzi was behind several websites offering online banking packages like world movers, Telexfree, Tasco among others, which have closed down since May 7th this year leaving many people crying foul.

Oyango said that the arrest followed complaints of filed by 250 victims claiming to have lost millions of shillings.

He explains that a person falls prey to these cybercrime scams when they are introduced to the online business package under these websites by another already subscribing to the network. After being convinced by enticing adverts on the sites promising them huge profits after a short period of time, a person is required to deposit a subscription fee in dollars to a particular online bank account. The hopeful subscribers are expect to earn their profits through electronic wallets(e-wallets) which many do not have or even understand how they operate.

This system of banking is in four categories called packages. That is to say silver package you deposit 300 dollars and earn 31 dollars per week for each share, Gold package you deposit 1400 us dollars and earn 168 dollars per week, the third one is platinum package you deposit 5400 dollars and it enable you to earn 729 dollars per week, Diamond package, you deposit 25100 dollars and enable you to earn 3600 dollars per week.

“As a result several corporate youths have fallen victim, this is a very high level cyber crime fraud”, oyango noted.

It was establish that Mulamuzi is architecture and proud owner of other websites like Telexfree formerly on Prime plaza, Tasco traders.com, Bank electro and he is believed to have links the United High Link, Massive arts.com, Vineyard among others where people have lost millions of dollars this is because the mode of operation is the same.

 

 

“people have invested between the range of 200,000 and 350,000 us dollars we want to caution the public that not everything that glitters is gold, for this business on internet, people should do a thorough background check like on who is the owner, where they operate from… now when we tell Ugandans that this man (Mulamuzi) is a Ugandan, many of them cannot believe it because of what he has told them before”-Oyango

However Mulamuzi denied having committed any fraud as alleged saying the online business networks have existed before elsewhere and many have benefited from them even here in Uganda.

“The allegations that I am defrauding people are not true because these are international companies. I also joined like any other person and of course the principle of this business is that you have to enter under another person, of which those people who recruited me into this business are there” Mulamuzi said, he added that so the allegations are very fake and false.

As a person who knows his rights, Mulamuzi said that of course being a suspect, it is upon police to prove, the case against him.

“these are international bodies, there is nothing wrong to join a network, if MTN comes here and say please register for mobile money and win rewards, I do not think It is criminal, what I do not know is the legality of these companies”-Mulamuzi argued.

When asked whether he had recruited some people in such business, Mulamuzi admitted to have done so.

“Yes I have recruited some and unfortunately I have not seen anyone complaining here”

However police says the complaints is still open and many more are expected to file similar cases

This is the very reason why the ministry of Information, Communication and technology should expedite the enactment of the Cybercrime law as promised by the minister. Probably regulation may address the risks presented by the technological advancements since such developments can be instrumental to the economy.

 

END

Is Uganda ready for E-learning?

 As the government announced its preparations for the E-learning conference slated for the 28th -30th May 2014, this model of learning is welcome move although there many challenge hampering internet usage.

Coming of this 9th E-learning African Conference to Kampala will have to remind many including the authorities that the United Nations resolved that Internet access is a basic human right that should be guaranteed and protected by states.

According to the UN, the right to Internet access, also known as the right to broadband, is the view that all people must be able to access the Internet in order to exercise and enjoy their rights to Freedom of expression and opinion and other fundamental human rights.

Now with as Government appreciates and embraces e-learning, probably the deliberate efforts will be put in place to ensure observance of this fundamental right.

Upholding this right of access to internet would give many Ugandans an opportunity to maximize the benefits of the E-learning system. So the authorities have to expeditious resolve the problems surrounding internet usage in the county.

In an interview with the Unwanted Witness Uganda shortly after the announcement at the Uganda Media Centre, the Minister for Information Communication and Technology John Nasasira admits that currently there problems that would hinder e-learning especially in the rural areas.

These hindrances include the slow internet speed, cases of cybercrime, absence of the necessary infrastructure especially in the rural areas among others. Such challenges are common in the remote and rural schools and situations of crowded classrooms, lack of teaching, laboratory materials and content further limits the enjoyment of e-learning arrangement.

However the minister assured the public that Government has already taken steps to bridge arrest the situation.

Nasasira told the Unwanted witness that Government is working on putting in place a reliable infrastructure.

“We need to build the infrastructure to carry the information to rural areas and it must have the adequate capacity because Data is not only voice like we have telephones, so the infrastructure we need must have adequate capacity to carry this huge data”-Nasasira said

 The minister also noted that soon government shall be rolling out broad band infrastructure especially mobile broadband for rural areas, saying that when we have this infrastructure in place then the next thing will be to avail devices (the computers).

He adds that the third thing is to ensure there is relevant content and lastly have the teachers with the skills, so government is working closely with the ministry of education on content.

According to government preparation of the infrastructure is the most important input, which it has already embarked on. For example it has rolled out computer labs in over 90% of secondary school, some tertiary institution and even universities.

Another important issue is connectivity; the minister says that when the computers are availed in schools, they must be connected.

In cases where there is internet access and actually e-learning is possible, there other limitations such as invasion of online privacy, cybercrime among others.

When asked about the rampant cases of cybercrime and invasion of people’s online privacy, the minister noted that government is to harmonize the computer misuse act and other legal issues pertaining on-line privacy. The minister is optimistic that government would be in position to arrest the cybercrime among other on-line ills.

Meanwhile the ministry of education has embarked on having super teachers who are skilled in ICT to train other teachers across the country that will facilitate the e-learning system.

So the ministry of Education is now enrolling super teachers, every holiday super teachers are trained on how they can train other teachers. Nasasira revealed that this holiday 600 teachers are being trained. He stressed that government and other players have to combine all the four, the infrastructure, content, Devices and teachers in order to have an enabling environment for e-learning.

Conference expectations

This 9th E-learning African Conference is expected to bring about extensive capacity building on all aspects of electronic-learning, usage of ICTs for development of this country, especially in the areas of Education, Health and research.

During this conference there will also be a ministerial round table brings together ministers of ICT across the African continent and experts to discuss application of ICT for e-learning in their respective countries.

This 9th Conference is expected to bring about other benefits that include exposure of our country to more than a thousand delegates. Their subsequent spending while here will also have an economic benefit to the country. There will be knowledge sharing on ICTs and also collaboration for new investments in the sector.

 

END