Kenya’s HIV Transmission Law Divides Government, Advocates, IRIN/PlusNews Reports
A new law in Kenya -- which has been approved but not yet implemented -- is intended to prevent willful transmission of HIV/AIDS, but some advocates and government agencies are divided on its possible implications, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Kenyan HIV/AIDS advocate Inviolata Mbwavi warned that the legislation could in effect label HIV-positive people as dangerous, adding, "When you criminalize HIV, then we are going back to square (one) of trying to stigmatize the virus even more, yet we have not effectively dealt with the stigma associated with HIV. Why do we want to further burden those who are already burdened by coming up with HIV-specific legislation?"
The government-run National AIDS Control Council strongly opposes the law, arguing that it puts the responsibility of transmission solely on HIV-positive people. Tom K'Opere, an advocate at the country's High Court, said, "Why would one bother to go for a test when they already know it could be used against them in a court of law?" He added that the law is "ridiculous" because it will "discourage" testing. In addition, the AIDS council estimates that most Kenyans are unaware of their HIV status.
Meanwhile, some supporters of the law argue that it should be implemented to protect vulnerable groups, such as women and children. Anne Gathumbi, an officer at the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, said, "We know that the majority of those who know their status are women. What we are doing by passing such a law is therefore to condemn people we are claiming to protect to jail." Some advocates are concerned that the legislation does not address the responsibility of HIV-negative people. In addition, a clause in the law that gives health care providers the right to disclose a patient's HIV status to relatives, resulting in a violation of confidentiality, is causing concern, IRIN/PlusNews reports. However, it has not been determined whether the government will implement this clause (IRIN/PlusNews, 12/12).