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Friday 11 June 2010

Uzbekistan: Negligent liability now added to HIV-specific criminal law

The Uzbek government has amended article 113 of Uzbekistan's Criminal Code to allow for easier prosecution for medical negliglence resulting in HIV transmission, according to a report on

Article 113, passed in 1999 and enacted in 2001, criminalises both knowing HIV exposure and transmission, both of which are punishable by imprisonment from eight to ten years. According to the report it had

previously provided punishment of fines or arrest from 6 months to 3 years for "deliberately endangering another person by infecting them with a venereal disease or AIDS." The new law specifies criminal liability of arrest for 6 months or imprisonment up to 5 years for such infection "as a result of non-fulfillment or negligence of professional duties". This includes failing to keep instruments sterile, and failure to follow proper procedures for blood transfusions and other medical procedures.

The amendment to the law was likely inspired by the trial of 13 doctors and medical workers whose negligence allegedly resulted in 147 children in the Namangan and Namangan regions becoming HIV-positive.

Fourteen of the children later died. Prosecutors found that doctors had failed to sterilize catheters, had reused disposable syringes and needles for taking blood samples, and also had falsified sterilization records and later destroyed evidence. Twelve were sentenced to prison for 5-8 years. Nine other medical employees from district hospitals in Namagan region were investigated, but the government has not made any information available and could not learn their fate. This year, another group of doctors in Andijan were also charged with infecting patients with HIV.

Uzbekistan is not known for its HIV-friendly policies. Last summer, HIV educator and advocate, Maxim Popov, was jailed for seven years allegedly for mismanagment of donor's funds but ostensibly for "corruption of youth" for "possessing and distributing HIV/AIDS-prevention publications that were deemed offensive to Uzbek sensibilities."

Last month, Uzbek President Karimov's daughter, Gulnara Karimova, who is also the Uzbek ambassador to Spain, attended a fundraiser in Cannes sponsored by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

Robert Frost, executive directof of amfAR, said he had raised Popov's case with Karimova [and] she had promised to "look into the situation," but nothing further has been heard from Karimova.

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