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Court Rejects HIV Claim — Should Illness Earn Asylum?

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected an HIV-positive Ugandan woman's claim to stay in the UK citing her medical condition. The woman's lawyers argued the level of medical care in Uganda would lead to her early death — in essence, cruel and degrading treatment.

The government didn't agree. They say that all National Health Service HIV drugs are available in Uganda, and if the woman was indeed sent back to Uganda, it would constitute no violation of the bar on inhuman or degrading treatment.

The woman initially entered the UK in March 1998 — seriously ill and soon admitted to a hospital. Lawyers filed an asylum application for her, claiming she had been raped by government soldiers in Uganda because of her association with the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group in the north of the country. The claim says her life would be in danger if she returned.

While rejecting her claim, the government said they had no evidence that Ugandan authorities were a threat to her and that the treatment of AIDS in Uganda was comparable to any other African country. Is comparable enough? If indeed the woman contracted AIDS through rape, should the government accept that as reason enough for asylum? Is sending her back a violation of human rights? Was the government right?


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