HIV/AIDS - "People's Tribunal" demands access to life
Tuesday 29 June 2004
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KENYA: HIV/AIDS - "People's Tribunal" demands access to life


[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



©  IRIN

Kenyans campaign for access to antiretrovirals

NAIROBI, 23 September (PLUSNEWS) - "We need treatment, we need treatment," Kenyans shouted loud and clear on Tuesday outside the venue of the 13th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), being held from 21 to 26 September in Nairobi.

The "People's Tribunal", organised outside the Kenya International Conference Centre demanded that Kenyans be given access to antiretroviral medicines to keep themselves alive.

"I am obliged to this country, but I am in the process of dying prematurely, not because my life is over, but because I am unable to manage the AIDS disease on my own," Renish Achieng, one of the "witnesses" at the tribunal told the crowd.

"We had great hopes and expectations for our family - my husband and I. But when we discovered our [HIV] positive status, everything changed." Unable to afford medicines for her husband, she said "I could only sit by his bed and watch him suffer until he died."

At least 250,000 Kenyans are in urgent need of antiretrovirals (ARVs), but only between 7,000 and 10,000 can afford them. The government has laid out plans to treat only 9,000 others over the coming year.

"Why are you denying me my right to health?" asked Charles Mwangi, another "witness". "Why is the government discriminating against me, making me face death before my time?" Kenyans were not even being given information about HIV/AIDS, he said, not to mention life-saving ARV medicines. "Give us access to education on HIV. Fight AIDS and not people with AIDS," he shouted. "The government should know that HIV and death are not related."

Patricia Asero said she was "ashamed" that the government had announced the launch of its first programme to provide ARVs just a day before the ICASA conference started. "Just because ICASA is here 6,000 people are given drugs ... I'm very, very disappointed in this government," she said. "How many people are dying every hour as the government watches?"

An estimated 700 people a day die in Kenya from HIV/AIDS and related medical problems. But many Kenyans were still in denial about the virus, the tribunal heard, and refused to be tested for HIV. "If there are no medicines available, who wants to know about a death sentence? " asked Mwangi.

Bearing banners, and wearing T-shirts saying "Treat a quarter of a million Kenyans now ... Only two pills a day," the crowd passed its "Guilty" verdict on their government, the pharmaceutical companies and World Trade Organisation, as well as Stigma, Denial and Discrimination.

"Nice words have been said before to gain political mileage without any action," said one of the tribunal "elders", Father Emmanuel Ngugi, of governmental pledges to treat Kenyans.

The government should develop a treatment plan and start treating all of the 250,000 in need, not just a few thousand, was the tribunal's verdict.

The pharmaceutical companies and World Trade Organsiation should stop lobbying for profit margins and reduce their costs by allowing competition. And the people of Kenya should accept the reality of HIV and stop their denial.

"Guilty!" shouted the crowd in unison.

[ENDS]


 
Recent KENYA Reports
Focus on primary schools coping with HIV-positive pupils,  16/Feb/04
Bridging the reproductive health gap for girls in Nairobi slums,  14/Jan/04
Confusion over HIV prevalence rates ,  13/Jan/04
Activists demand better access to antiretrovirals,  19/Sep/03
Corruption allegations plague AIDS body,  1/Sep/03
Links
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
AEGIS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Mothers and HIV/AIDS

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