, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2- First Lady Lucy Kibaki has broken her long silence with heavy censure of Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi for suggesting that HIV positive persons be confined to control the spread of the virus.
The First Lady described the proclamation as retrogressive.
Mrs Kibaki who has been deeply involved in the fight against HIV/Aids argued that the isolation proposal compromised gains made by the country so far, as it re-introduced stigmatisation of such persons.
She added that the move would not only grossly abuse their human rights but also make people reluctant to get tested and access treatment.
“The proposal would entail a violation of their fundamental rights to move freely and associate and is contrary to basic human virtues. The 1.45 million Kenyans currently living with HIV/Aids deserve care, love and compassion not confinement,” she said.
The First Lady further asked Kenyans not to discriminate against HIV positive persons on any grounds saying that conquering stigmatisation had lowered prevalence rates in the country.
“While the overall prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS was as high as 14 per cent in the 1980 and 1990s, when stigmatisation was high, the prevalence rate has currently dropped to an estimated 6.3 per cent among those aged between 15 and 64 years,” she noted.
She further called upon Kenyans to shun and ignore the proposal saying it was impractical. “Stigmatisation makes Aids the silent killer, because people who would otherwise live normal lives if they established their HIV status and adjusted accordingly cannot do so for fear of the social disgrace of being infected.”
“It also makes it more difficult for people to come to terms with HIV and to manage their illness at a personal level,” she maintained.
The Special Programmes minister on Tuesday reiterated remarks she made last Friday (January 28) saying she had no apologies to make for the proposal.
She said her remarks were not offensive as she only wanted to reduce the country’s HIV prevalence rate.
Civil societies and NGOs also took issue with her remarks and asked her to withdraw them and apologise.
“Once the Civil Society groups tell me which part is offensive, then I will decide whether I need to apologise,” the Minister said.
She also said she was happy that her statements had generated debate on the disease: “As long as we don’t talk about HIV/Aids, it is going to consume us and it will not come to an end so can we keep the debate going but can it be positive debate.”
Last week, Ms Murugi said Kenya should emulate Cuba and isolate HIV positive persons so as to fight the epidemic.
“In Cuba when President Fidel Castro was still very strong, anybody who tested positive for HIV/AIDS was locked somewhere and once you went in, you did not come out,” she had told MPs attending a workshop on HIV/AIDS in Mombasa.
“I don’t know whether we should be that drastic or what we should do but sometimes I think may be that is what we should do so that those who are ill are locked in,” she said.
Follow the author at https://twitter.com/wambuindonga