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Africa: Draft HIV Law for East African Community

(Dec. 9, 2009) The East African Community (EAC) is drafting a law to provide a joint, regional response to HIV AIDS treatment for persons as they move freely across EAC Member States' borders. The EAC, headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. A consultancy group's report, based on a study of existing HIV laws of EAC countries and providing advice on a draft HIV bill for the region, was presented at an EAC consultative meeting held on December 3 and 4, 2009. As Catherine Mumma, a Kenyan human rights lawyer involved in the consultation process for the draft law, pointed out:

[w]ith the signing of the protocol on customs union that will enable free movement of persons [in the EAC] [agreed to in November 2009, in effect in early 2010], you are actually going to see free movement of the virus because people will be interacting more easily as they transact business. The effect of that is that HIV must be seen regionally

(Wambi Michael, East Africa: Move Towards Common HIV/Aids Law, IPS, Dec. 4, 2009, available at

One purpose of the draft law is to provide for a common, non-discriminatory stance on the disease; at present, some EAC countries criminalize treatment of HIV-positive homosexual men and sex workers. It would also allow for access to treatment services anywhere in the region. If adopted, the law would be the second HIV/AIDS law in Africa. The Southern African Development Community adopted an HIV law in November 2008 that “provides a comprehensive framework for harmonisation of HIV and human rights in southern Africa.” (Id.)