HIV-positive people demand protective laws

BURUNDI: HIV-positive people demand protective laws

? ?Menya Media

HIV/AIDS awareness campaign poster in Bujumbura.

BUJUMBURA, 27 Apr 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - An association for HIV positive people in Burundi, the Reseau Burundais des personnes vivant avec le VIH, wants the government to enact a law protecting affected people against discrimination and stigmatisation.

"We demand that the government should promulgate the law protecting HIV positive people as soon as possible, not only to protect HIV infected people but to protect the entire community," Felix Ntungumburanye, the head of the association, said during a workshop in the capital, Bujumbura.

He said cases of discrimination against people living with HIV were on the increase. He added that to discriminate against an HIV-positive person contributed to the spread of the virus.

"In some parts of the country, some religious sects ask for certificates stating the HIV status before blessing marriages," he said. "The impact of this procedure is that people feel discriminated against and refuse to take the HIV test. Then weddings are held with all the consequences."

The minister in charge of the fight against HIV/AIDS, Luc Rukingama, who opened the one-day workshop, said a bill protecting HIV-positive people against discrimination was being drafted and would soon be presented to the government for promulgation.

A participant, Chantal Ntihabose, 40, narrated the discrimination she had experienced since learning she was HIV positive. "I was afraid to tell my mother about my HIV status. One day she suspected I was positive and questioned why I liked visiting associations that assist HIV-infected people," she said.

She added: "When my mother discovered that I was HIV positive, she threw me out of the house. That was in 1997. I asked myself how I would survive with my four children as I was jobless."

She said an association taking care of people living with HIV, Nouvelle esperance (New Hope), helped feed her and her children.

"When my mother chased me away, I weighed 35 kg, now I weigh 60 kg, thanks to Nouvelle esperance," she added.

HIV-positive people attending the workshop sought to have greater access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) that could prolong their lives. Government statistics indicate that only 1,200 out of 25,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS in the country have access to ARVs.


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