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Heads of schools are grappling with an unusual instruction, after the government ordered them to declare the HIV status of all their people, including students.

In a recent circular, the ministry of Education and Sports asked all schools to provide the HIV/Aids status of their students, teaching and non-teaching staff as part of data that would be collected in this year’s school census.

It is an order that has stoked fierce controversy, in a country where, despite being a leading killer, HIV/Aids remains a largely private matter, even rarely cited in cause-of-death conversations.

The ministry’s demand makes the list of many requirements to be filled out in the forms during the ministry census for all schools and tertiary institutions. The schools, which received their forms last Wednesday, must return them to the ministry today, Monday April 22.

The pink form for secondary schools, which The Observer has seen, requires schools, among others, to submit particulars about their students, teaching and non-teaching staff, infrastructure, sanitation, teaching materials and learners, teachers and non-teaching staff’s HIV/Aids status.

But parents and teachers are opposed to the idea of mandatory declaration of HIV/Aids status because they say, availing such sensitive information may promote stigma. Tom Mpuuja Mutebi, a parent at Kampala Junior Academy, wonders how the ministry expects schools to come up with such information.

“How do you come to such conclusions when some people do not want to discuss such a sensitive topic? If they asked me in person, I would give them my status for planning

purposes in terms of providing healthcare but I don’t think that is what they want it for,” Mutebi said at the weekend. Another parent, of Aga Khan High School, admitted that the intention could be good but the ministry should tread carefully on this topic.

“The ministry should first tell us what it intends to do with such information. Do they have any special programmes for children?” she said.

But the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Education, Francis Lubanga, warned in a recent circular to schools that any school that would not provide all the required information would lose its licence.

Francis Agula, the assistant Commissioner for secondary schools, told The Observer at the weekend that his ministry was only trying to assist the ministry of Health, which could not fight HIV/Aids alone.

“We have come in with a multi-sectoral approach to fight the disease. We have a programme and vision to look after those children who are HIV-positive but if they don’t want to submit their results, we are not forcing them,” Agula said.

According to Edward Ssemukasa, the head teacher of Kisaasi College School, the issue of HIV figures featured prominently at a recent meeting of Kawempe division school heads at Makerere University primary school. Head teachers reportedly argued that the ministry was asking too much from them, as schools could not test all students and teachers for HIV.

“I don’t know why they want it; with the stigma associated with it, I doubt whether we can get information about HIV,” Ssemukasa told The Observer. “In my opinion, this is stigmatising staff and students with HIV. They would have gone a notch higher to talk about other ailments but they talked about special needs and HIV. We cannot go asking every individual their HIV status. Anyone who knows their status keeps it to themselves.”

He believes that the ministry should have addressed more pressing ailments like malaria and how many students miss school because of that, and urinary tract infections, which are a major cause of worry among females in boarding schools.

“HIV really cannot be got in a school, even if we know the status of some students, when parents bring in students they confide in the administrator so that we monitor them.

They want it to remain with us. Imagine if the media got hold of this information and they published the number of students in schools with HIV, it would cause stigma to those schools,” Ssemukasa says.

Rashid Ssebutosi, the deputy head teacher for Mariam High School, says although they ask students to carry out a compulsory medical checkup every year, the HIV test is not required.

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Comments

 
-13 #1 Betty Long Cap 2013-04-22 01:34
HIV/AIDS virus is no more a private matter than the common cold or tuberculosis. All three are highly contagious.

Because the AIDS virus is best spread with blood to blood contact, an HIV positive student should not be eligible to play contact sports.

Too long AIDS has been regarded as a social stigma and not a disease. Healthy, HIV negative people need to be protected from contamination.
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+11 #2 James 2013-04-22 02:01
This is a gov't of vampires. What do they want to do with the results?

They should let Ugandans know the results of the ID tender, where "My oil/Nyarwino" gets the sacks of money he moves with from, declare the wealth of all leaders, results of the various commissions of enquiry, what happened to Desh Kananura case etc.
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+6 #3 Webesixty 2013-04-22 07:26
Begin with the top leadership down the cabinet to their siblings!

Some people can have their cakes after eating it! Sooner than later we will get to know the source of power expended by Delilah's of Banana plantation republic.
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+6 #4 Andrew Lugemwa 2013-04-22 09:18
Dear editor, the ministry should first tell us why among all diseases they are interested in HIV. The stigma associated with it may increase because we are now thinking the ministry want to stop giving tuition to students and salaries to teachers and other workers who may be declared hiv positive.
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+8 #5 Wats 2013-04-22 11:38
Folks, why burn gas for nothing, how many of you are new to Uganda HIV business?, any matter concening HIV only comes when the government wants money from donors, and its manipulated to show that the pervelance is very high even if its is not, then when the money reaches the government coffer, after a year or two,

good figures are shown indicating reduction in infections rates, and business goes on>........, even if these head of schools don't provide any data, the Ministry will still fabricate some for the dodnors.
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+7 #6 wodgot 2013-04-22 12:58
Will Museveni be happy if Dr.Diana Atwine declares to us his HIV Status? I think Parliament will first have to amend that section of the constitution which protects patients' confidentiality .

Why do you want to infringe into patients' privacy/ fundamental Human Rights? HIV status is part of the confidential information which must be kept out of public domain.

It should be left with the doctors and shouldn't be used for political reasons. Hon .Dr. Chris who is charged with MPs' welfare will have to reveal to the public HIV status of all MPs,and he will have to start with the speaker.
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+1 #7 Bonabana 2013-04-22 13:06
MhMh wats you make me laugh and indeed is true,they want money,I was told a story by my people at home I shook my head some bazungus tell children to dress in rags make themelves dirty with mad. And go show how poor the children in Africa are.Lord have mery.
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+3 #8 mugisa 2013-04-22 13:15
Will this be done every after six months?
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+2 #9 mugisa 2013-04-22 13:17
Will this exercise be done every six months to get accurate results as they say?
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+6 #10 Rwanyekiro 2013-04-22 13:43
Let the President first declare the HIV status of his cabinet and relatives because we spend a lot of money for their treatment.
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-2 #11 Betty Long Cap 2013-04-22 16:00
Quoting wodgot:
Why do you want to infringe into patients' privacy/ fundamental Human Rights? HIV status is part of the confidential information which must be kept out of public domain.


wodgot, do you also want confidentiality upheld for those who carry concealed weapons without a permit? HIV/AIDS virus is deadly.

Health care workers must know the HIV/AIDS status of every patient because they have a life-threatening occupation. Many have died from AIDS caring for the sick and dying.

Only in a sex-crazed culture will people fight for the right to silently spread a deadly virus. The AIDS virus is decimating the African population and people are more concerned about their next hook-up than stopping the plague.

Strange how Ugandans made a deadly virus a protected social stigma and a human rights issue.
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+1 #12 James 2013-04-22 17:31
Quoting Rwanyekiro:
Let the President first declare the HIV status of his cabinet and relatives because we spend a lot of money for their treatment.


Spot on brother. If it is no longer a personal issue we want the status of all LC5 chairmen, RDCs, MPs and those that we have to pay from the consolidated fund.

They should lead by example. Lest walk the talk instead of preaching water and drinking wine.

For God and My Country
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+1 #13 Zirindaba 2013-04-22 18:01
We need the HIV status of the President and his Ministers too
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+1 #14 Dean 2013-04-22 21:17
Vision 2040-there you go
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0 #15 Webesixty 2013-04-22 21:51
Quoting Betty Long Cap:
HIV/AIDS virus is no more a private matter than the common cold or tuberculosis. All three are highly contagious.

Because the AIDS virus is best spread with blood to blood contact, an HIV positive student should not be eligible to play contact sports.

Too long AIDS has been regarded as a social stigma and not a disease. Healthy, HIV negative people need to be protected from contamination.


Your foreign policy is to blame! Soldiers trained by US are allowed to go on a rampage to save bullets with long term disastrous consequences.

Sad thing is, they do not know what they pick up from Lukaya to distribute in war zones.
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+1 #16 lindsey kukunda 2013-04-23 10:47
Betty...many have died from AIDS caring for the sick and dying? REALLY?

HIV positive students can't play contact sports?
Are you deliberately refusing to educate yourself about how this illness is contracted?

You're a disgrace.
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+3 #17 naboma 2013-04-23 11:11
Quoting Rwanyekiro:
Let the President first declare the HIV status of his cabinet and relatives because we spend a lot of money for their treatment.


rwakihembo let museveni declare his status first-or we ask Dr Besigye to tell us-remember he wanted to spill the beans the other time when museveni said dr besigye was HIV+ and the visionary panicked! Why impose stupid policies on poor kids while their status private? shameless government!
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0 #18 Betty Long Cap 2013-04-23 11:18
Quoting Zirindaba:
We need the HIV status of the President and his Ministers too


Need-to-know is based on the likelihood of contracting AIDS. Anyone you plan to have sex with needs to disclose his/her HIV/AIDS status FIRST. Otherwise, the virus is a concealed weapon.
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0 #19 Betty Long Cap 2013-04-23 11:29
Quoting Webesixty:
Your foreign policy is to blame! Soldiers trained by US are allowed to go on a rampage to save bullets with long term disastrous consequences.


Disease including STD has always been used as a weapon against civilians. A friend told me officers masturbate and enlisted men frequent prostitutes. Where sex is sold, patrons travel at their own risk.
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+1 #20 James 2013-04-23 12:13
We need protection from online impersonators..
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