Sunday Vision, Uganda
UGANDA: Those who spread AIDS should hang
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has called for death penalty for people who knowingly spread the HIV/AIDS virus.
He also called for the outlawing of primitive methods used by the Bagishu and Sebei in eastern Uganda of using knives for circumcision that are likely to spread the virus.
Speaking at the commemoration of 25 years since the 1st case was identified at Kasensero landing site in Rakai District on Friday, the President lauded the parliamentary committee on HIV/AIDS for coming up with the draft Bill.
"I am glad to learn that the parliamentary committee on HIV/AIDS is coming up with a law to punish people who deliberately infect others. I would advise that they be condemned to death by hanging," he said, to murmurs from the crowds.
Museveni chided the residents for the lukewarm reception to his proposal of a death penalty. "I hear some of you have not welcomed this proposal; but why would one knowingly infect others," he asked. "Even the Bagishu and Basebei, we also need to warn them against using knives to cut people left and right," he said.
Reminiscing on the origin of Uganda's AIDS realisation, Museveni said when the first case was reported in Kasensero in the 1980s, he called all the health experts who informed him that it is contracted from promiscuity and, not insect bites. "I felt relieved to hear that it is only transmitted through promiscuous sexual relationships. My biggest worry was that insect bites could transfer the virus. I was relieved when they told me it was through sex, because I knew that it would that way be easy to stop," he said.
He said at the time there were only two places with testing equipment in the country: Nsambya and Lacor hospitals, upon which he directed that every hospital in the country get one. On realising the magnitude of the problem, Museveni said, he turned to political rallies to spread the anti HIV/AIDS gospel, because the messages the Ministry of Health was putting out were too frail.
He amused the audience when he recalled: "They were putting adverts on the radio saying, 'Love carefully, zero grazing'. "I told them that is not loud enough," he said while gesturing and rolling his eyes.
He thanked Parliament for recognising him and his wife Janet with plaques for their contribution."I approached it as a soldier - when there is a problem we just attack it directly," he said.
He recalled when retired Cuban President Fidel Castro called him aside on the periphery of the Non-aligned Movement in Harare and told him there was a big problem in Uganda. "I had sent 60 soldiers for training in Cuba, he told me they had checked them and found 18 of them sick of AIDS. He told me that was a high number which made it possible for a huge number of people in the country to be infected," Museveni recalled.
He called for more sensitisation, ensuring safe blood transfusion, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
Although he is not against condom use, the President added, he wouldn't advise his children to sexually interact with people whose status they do not know simply because they have condoms.
Parliament Speaker Edward Ssekandi said that President Museveni's bold fight against Aids had catapulted Uganda onto the international map, and made Museveni a senior global consultant on HIV/AIDS prevention.
HIV/AIDS committee chairman Elioda Tumwesigye said the fact that Uganda now has an ARV factory should not make people complacent, saying that after 25 years, the figure had stagnated again. He called for a re-awakening of the fight.
Museveni said countries with highest condom use have the highest infection rates, adding that had Uganda dwelt on only abstinence and faithfulness, the 6.3% infection rate would be lower.