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Uganda: Government Demands Students' HIV Status

April 22, 2013

The Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports has required secondary schools to report the HIV status of all students, teachers, and staff in this year's school census, due on April 22. Schools received the "pink form" for secondary schools on Wednesday, April 17. Items required on the pink form include information on students, infrastructure, sanitation, teaching materials, learners, and HIV status. Francis Lubanga, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Sports, warned that schools failing to provide all information will lose their license. Another Ministry of Education and Sports official stated that the request is part of a multi-sector approach the government has adopted to fight HIV, a leading cause of death in Uganda.

Parents and teachers oppose the requirement because they say the ministry has not defined its purpose for collecting the information, and they fear such knowledge will result in stigma for HIV-infected individuals and for schools with high HIV prevalence. Furthermore, the requirement places the burden of HIV testing upon schools. According to Rashid SSebutosi, deputy head teacher for Mariam High School, HIV testing is not a required element of the school's compulsory annual health exam.

Edward Ssemuskasa, head teacher of Kisaasi College School, emphasized the difficulty of obtaining information about the staff's or students' HIV status in a culture where HIV/AIDS is seldom discussed openly, even in cause-of-death conversations. He suggested collecting information about malaria or urinary tract infections would be more useful in promoting student health. Although parents may report HIV status when a student enters a school, Ssemuskasa indicated parents would prefer the school keep this information confidential.

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Excerpted from:
The Observer (Uganda)
04.22.2013; Shifa Mwesigye

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