People living with HIV (PLHIV) continue to face human rights violations despite Kenya’s long struggle and progress in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
According to a research study commissioned by Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO) in partnership with the Network of People Living with HIV (NEPHAK) and with support from UNDP, UNAIDS and the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), human rights violations and discrimination against PLHIV occur in the family, community, at the workplace, in schools and in prisons. A report launched on Tuesday (4 September) outlined some of the testimonies, findings and recommendations to upgrade the health sector in order to stop violations of human rights.
Unfortunately, the family has been identified as the context within which most human rights violations occur. The findings also reveal that health and medical centres routinely fail to recognise the rights to privacy of PLHIV in delivery of services.
Evans Aneka,a father of four children from western Kenya, was diagnosed as needing HIV treatment in 2001. He was working with the American Embassy at the point he realised he was positive. But this was not all, the doctor who tested him violated his rights; he took the test result to Aneka’s boss without his consent, which made him sacked from his job. His status stigmatised him to a point of considering committing suicide but he gained hope due to counselling. But he is still being discriminated against by his father up to today.
The Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (2001) states: “Through the long struggle against HIV, it has become clear that human rights are central to effective national responses to HIV. Where human rights are not protected, people are more vulnerable to HIV infection. Where the human rights of HIV-positive people are not protected, they suffer stigma and discrimination, become ill, become unable to support themselves and their families, and if not provided treatment, they die.”
Njoki Otieno, a mother of two who is in a discordant relationship, found out her HIV status in 2002 while giving birth to her first born.
“Sexual reproduction health rights on women is being mistreated due to how medical personnels behave, and its the right of anyone to have children so long as in an outlined procedure. I don’t want anyone else to pass through where I passed,” Njoki said.
According to Allan Maleche, Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network of HIV/AIDS (KELIN) executive director, the study focuses on awareness level of human rights and legal instruments by people living with HIV.
The study was conducted in 15 counties. PLHIV were in the large percentage of those who participated.
“It was found that human rights violation and discrimination against PLHIV occur in family, community, workplace, schools and prisons,” Allan said.
“The study recommends the need to engage with communities to provide information and promote decisions around, and to boost channels to address, the discrimination cases,” Allan concluded.