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 Tuesday 30 October 2007
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KENYA: Activists urge government to implement HIV/AIDS law

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
The Act became law in December 2006 but has lain dormant since then
NAIROBI, 17 August 2007 (PlusNews) - Kenya's HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act was signed into law in December 2006, but eight months on, it is yet to be implemented.

"We started celebrating and only later realised that the Act did not have a commencement date," said Allan Ragi, executive director of the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, at a forum on the Act in the capital, Nairobi, on 17 August. "Unless we press for its implementation, it will be difficult to benefit form it."

Section One of the Act stipulates that it can only come into operation on a date appointed by the Minister of Health once the accompanying guidelines, rules and policies that are required have been developed. Sections of the legislation may become functional before others but, thus far, none has been implemented.

"The Act is a good piece of legislation that integrates legal issues, human rights and HIV policies, but the government must turn it into action if it is to have any relevance," said Winfred Lichuma, a member of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. "As stakeholders, we need to jumpstart this process and bring the Act to life."

Lichuma said although many of the clauses in the Act, such as HIV education, were already in effect, the rights of people living with HIV needed to be entrenched.

She referred to an ongoing court case in Nairobi, in which an employee is suing her employer for discrimination on the grounds of her HIV status. "If the guidelines were already in place, and the Act in force, this case would have been much simpler to handle," she said.

The legislation covers issues ranging from the right to health services and confidentiality, to HIV research and the establishment of an HIV tribunal to deal with breaches of the Act. It also stipulates that the penalty for "knowingly and recklessly" placing another person at risk of HIV infection is a fine of US$7,700 and/or a prison term of up to seven years.

Among the issues that require regulations are HIV testing, because health centres must receive ministerial approval before being allowed to perform these tests, as well as rules to guide health practitioners in the use of post-exposure prophylaxis.

However, the activists said some issues, such as the Transmission of HIV clause, could be commenced without any further discussion because they were fairly explicit.

According to Prof Alloys Orago, director of the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), the delay in implementing the Act resulted from confusion over which government department was responsible for the process of developing rules and guidelines.

"Following a recent meeting with stakeholders, we realised that the responsibility falls squarely on NACC to implement the Act," he said. "We do not have a scorecard to measure where we are in the process of bringing the Act into action, but in the near future we will be able to report on our progress."

Orago, who took office early in 2007, after the NACC had been embroiled in serious corruption scandals for three turbulent years, said he recognised the urgency with which the matter needed to be treated. "We must not move slowly - we must run."


Theme(s): (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


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