, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 24 – More than half of Kenyans still discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS, according to a new survey released on Monday.
The study by ActionAid and Women Fighting Aids in Kenya (WOFAK) revealed that 74 percent of the respondents believed that people who contracted HIV were being punished for promiscuity.
ActionAid National Coordinator for Right to health Ruth Masha said on Monday that although the study indicated that 98 percent of Kenyans claimed to know about HIV, 48 percent still feared non-invasive contact like greeting or sharing utensils with those living with HIV.
“Over 60 percent of the people interviewed did tell us that they make efforts to conceal their status and that they travel longer distances to ensure that no one knows them in the (health) facility they go,” she said.
Ms Masha said there needed to be a system of social mobilisation to explore ways in which the Church, councils of elders and political leaders could be involved in destigmatisation of HIV to succeed in response to the virus.
Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o said stigma led to discrimination and lack of information hence the need for HIV programmes to target those not yet infected.
“It is not going to help us to try and find out where AIDS came from or who was responsible. It is much more important to do something about stopping it from spreading further and that is why in the proposed Constitution there is a very important principle which says all Kenyans have a right to health as a fundamental human right and that clause does not say all Kenyans minus those who are HIV positive,” the Minister said.
He said the study was an eye-opener to the government that there was still an existing problem in dealing with HIV/AIDS which was the extent of stigma and the effect it had on the existing efforts to deal with the disease.
“It compels those of us in government to make arrangements and create institutions and promote values that will translate that principle into reality,” he said.
The study indicated that interventions to reduce HIV stigma were necessary to fight HIV related stigma and discrimination within the community.
Ms Masha said the study found that stigma was attributed to the way HIV was transmitted.
“We need to evaluate the programmes that have been going on over the years to see how best to address stigma because it deals with person to person,” she said.
The study was carried out in Busia, Samia and Siaya districts of Western Province between August and November 2009 and mainly focused on women and children.