Candidate’s HIV Status at Issue in Ugandan Election
The issue of a candidate's HIV status has lent an "interesting" twist to Uganda's presidential election, with "whisper[s]" in the country insinuating that Dr. Kizza Besigye, who is challenging President Yoweri Museveni for the presidency, is HIV-positive. The New York Times reports that early in the campaign, Museveni's "allies" hinted that Besigye might have AIDS. In an interview with Time magazine this month, Museveni himself said, "Besigye is suffering from AIDS," although he later said that the statement was "taken slightly out of context." Besigye, who is "apparently in good physical condition," has "brushed off the accusations" but has not denied them, the Times reports. "I have absolutely no doubt that there is no medical condition that I suffer from which can preclude me from doing the duties of president. If I did I would definitely have disqualified myself from doing so," Besigye said at a Saturday news conference. Responding to Museveni's remarks, Besigye said that the president is "trying to create a situation whereby persons with HIV are discriminated [against]." Besigye added that "if [HIV] status is to be a qualification for public service," other candidates should undergo HIV testing. Noting that he once served as Museveni's physician, Besigye "indirectly rais[ed]" the issue that the president might himself be infected with some disease, although he disclosed no information as to his HIV status. "Even now, I do not know what President Museveni's HIV status is. I don't think anybody knows. And he doesn't know my status," he said. Museveni said that his statements concerning Besigye's possible HIV status "hurt" him, but maintained that he is not against people infected with AIDS, pointing to his role in cutting Uganda's HIV infection rate from 30% to 10%. "Many people who have AIDS are alive today because of me. They should thank me," Museveni said. Besigye, who has posed a "serious challenge" to Museveni, currently holds 40% of the vote in the polls. The election will be held today (Fisher, New York Times, 3/12). The Ugandan election was also featured in NPR's "Morning Edition" this morning. To access RealAudio of the segment, go to http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=03/12/2001&PrgID=3 and scroll down to the appropriate story. To read the Time article, enter http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,101373,00.html into your Web browser.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.