April 3, 2014
This article was reported by BBC News Africa.
BBC News Africa reported that selling fake HIV-negative certificates has become a widespread practice in Uganda, where HIV-infected persons faced "massive social stigma" from employers, family, and friends. A BBC Africa undercover investigation of 15 small private clinics identified 12 that were willing to sell a fake certificate with the clinic's official stamp and the health worker's signature for as little as $20. HIV-positive people purchased the bogus HIV-negative results to get a job, travel abroad, or deceive a sexual partner about their status.
Uganda was a global leader in fighting HIV. While HIV prevalence was approximately 20 percent 20 years ago, government action helped reduce prevalence to 6.3 percent in 2005. The number of HIV-positive people increased to 7.2 percent in 2012, spurring a major HIV testing campaign. However, stigma prevented some people from having HIV tests or accessing services. Some employers believed having HIV made workers less efficient, and many considered HIV-positive people to be immoral.
Uganda's Health Minister Ruhakana Rugunda acknowledged that the government could do more to stop clinics from selling HIV-negative results. However, he emphasized that companies should stop stigmatizing HIV-positive workers, rather than placing responsibility on the police to stop clinics from selling fake-negative results. Uganda had no laws to protect HIV-positive people from discrimination. Pending legislation, the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill 2010, would establish punishments for people who spread HIV and would require health workers to divulge the status of anyone who could pass HIV to a partner.
The United States has provided most of Uganda's HIV program funding, giving more than $2 billion in support throughout the last decade. US Ambassador to Kampala Scott DeLisi placed the responsibility for monitoring the program with Uganda's government. DeLisi was unsure whether any clinics giving out fake-negative results had received US funds.