NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8 – The government has been urged to implement and fully operationalise a new law that makes it easier for people with HIV/AIDS to access medicare.,
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights chairperson Florence Jaoko said failure to implement the law which was enacted in December 2006 forced those affected to depend on the goodwill of the government.
“It’s very important because right now if you were HIV positive, there is no legal obligation on the part of the government to provide any services to you. It is easier when you have a legal mechanism to articulate your rights,” she explained.
She however stressed the need to explain to the public the criminal aspect of the Act so as to minimise stigmatisation of infected people.
Section 24 (1) of the Act states that if a person who is and is aware of being infected with HIV or is aware of carrying the virus shall take all reasonable measures and precaution to prevent transmission of HIV to others.
Subsection 2 states that a person who is and is aware of being infected with HIV or who is carrying and is aware of carrying HIV shall not knowingly and recklessly place another at risk of becoming infected with HIV unless that other person knew that fact and voluntarily accepted the risk of being infected.
Subsection 3 also states that a person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) and commits an offence shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both.
Speaking during a seminar on HIV/AIDS, Ms Jaoko urged Kenyans to take time and get to know the contents of the Act.
She pointed out that the main objective of criminal sanctions was to incapacitate the offender from harming others through imprisonment.
The KNCHR boss also explained that the government would rehabilitate the offenders by enabling them to change future behaviour so as to avoid harming others.
According to Ms Jaoko, the Act requires the government to offer retribution for wrong doing by meting out the necessary punishment to offenders to deter individual offenders and others from engaging in prohibited acts in the future.
“For Kenyans it is very important for people to familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Act. That way, those who are affected and infected will be able to access their rights in a better way if they know the contents of the Act,” she emphasised.
HIV and AIDS remains a major challenge in Kenya, with substantial regional variations in HIV infections, low levels of HIV testing, couple HIV discordance and the ongoing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections.
At the same time, Danish Institute for Human Rights representative Stephen Jensen has stressed the need to strike a balance in the implementation of the Act.
He pointed out that to achieve this, there was need to engage the public in human rights dialogue.
Kenya like any other developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa has been hard hit by the HIV and AIDS scourge.
The 2007 Kenya Health Indicator Survey puts the Kenyan national HIV prevalence of the age bracket of 15 – 64 at 7.4 percent.