Kenyan HIV/AIDS Patients Face Discrimination By Employers
The "economic strain of treating AIDS" in Kenya has led many companies to terminate HIV-positive workers from their jobs and implement mandatory HIV testing "as a condition of employment," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. State firms and companies that are partially owned by the government are required to provide health care for employees, while private companies are under no legal obligation to do so. Kenyan Cabinet Minister Marsden Madoka said that the Kenyan government spends $2.6 million a day in HIV/AIDS medical expenses, a number that has increased 10-fold in the past eight years. Health Minister Sam Ongeri "concedes" that Kenya's swiftly growing population and the accompanying demand for health care have limited severely the government's ability to provide adequate services to combat the spread of HIV. According to Dr. David Omollo, the Nairobi City Council assistant health officer, the council in 1996 suspended its free medical health care coverage after realizing it was spending more money on services for its employees, approximately $5,000 to $7,000 per HIV-positive employee from diagnosis to death, than for health services for the general public. "Paying medical bills of staff members with AIDS could finish [many companies] off," Omollo added. Despite lacking legislation protecting the rights of workers in Kenya, Nairobi-based attorney Paul Amollo believes that the practice of firing HIV-positive employees is in direct violation of the Kenyan constitution, which bans all forms of discrimination. However, victims of AIDS-related work discrimination face societal condemnation due to widespread fear of the disease and have been consequently reluctant to seek legal recourse (Gough, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/13). However, in September the Federation of Kenya Employers released revised guidelines that call on employers to eliminate mandatory HIV tests (Panafrican News Agency, 9/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.