Private clinics in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, are selling fake HIV negative certificates to help people get jobs, an undercover investigation by BBC Africa’s Catherine Byaruhanga has revealed.
I, along with my BBC colleagues, spent several weeks trying to track down someone who had paid for a fake HIV-negative certificate.
Most of the people we spoke to were too scared to be interviewed.
Sarah isn’t her real name – she would only talk to us if we hid her identity.
“I had to get the fake negative results because if I gave the company my positive results I was not going to get employed.
I’m a single mother. I’m struggling. I need this money. I need this job for my child.”
We heard several accounts of people buying bogus HIV-negative results in order to get a job, to travel abroad or to lie to s*xual partners because of the huge stigma against people with HIV here.
We went undercover to several clinics in Kampala, pretending to be HIV-positive job-seekers in need of a negative certificate to show prospective employers.
Clinics selling bogus HIV certificates
These were small private clinics – there are hundreds of them all over Kampala.
Inside, there were a handful of staff, a doctor maybe but usually a nurse and a laboratory technician who carries out the testing.
We visited 15 clinics – 12 were willing to give us a fake negative result.
One laboratory technician said it was very risky for him to give a fake certificate and he could be arrested.
After some negotiations, he agreed to write it for around $20.
The certificates have everything to make them look official, including the clinic’s official stamp and the health worker’s signature.
This evidence comes at a time when many people here are taking a critical look at Uganda’s HIV policies.
For years, the country was seen as a global leader in the fight against the disease.
Twenty years ago, around one in five Ugandans had the virus, the government quickly got behind Aids campaigns and by 2005 the rate was brought down to 6.3%.
But in recent years the number of people with HIV has started to rise again, to 7.2% in 2012.
Once again, the government and activists are fighting to turn things around.
The message is: “Get tested”. Everywhere you go in Kampala there are billboards and posters urging people to find out their status.
Even President Yoweri Museveni and his wife have taken public tests.
The idea is once people find out they are HIV-positive they can get onto anti-retroviral medicines and be counselled so they don’t spread the disease.
But the massive social stigma means many are just too scared.
People just don’t know
Last year, a survey of more than 1,000 Ugandans living with HIV/Aids was carried out by the National Forum of People Living with HIV/Aids Networks in Uganda (Nafophanu).
It found that more 60% of them faced stigma; either being shunned by relatives or friends or losing a job.
Many people in Uganda still see it as a disease of the immoral, those who have led a promiscuous life.
The HIV-positive people we have spoken to add that employers are not willing to hire them because they think the disease will make them less efficient at work.
Nafophanu head Stella Kentutsi says this stigma leads some HIV-positive people to avoid accessing health services.
This then leads to more people dying of the disease and passing it on to their partners.