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WHY ISOLATION OF HIV/AIDS SUFFERERS IS RETROGRESSIVE, ILLEGAL

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 00:00 -- BY JOHN CHIGITI

Many people in Kenya are infected or
affected by HIV/Aids. The presence of an HIV/Aids sufferer in the family
affects the whole family. It affects the entire nation. It exposes the family
to a lot of anxiety. Persons who have Aids normally die a very painful death in
the hands of their loved ones.

 To take such people from the society
would fast-track their death. It would erode and take away their right to life
as provided for under Article 26 (1) of our Constitution and take away their inherent
right to dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected.

Article 29 provides that every person has
the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right not
to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause or detained without
trial.

No civilised society should at any one
time think of isolating HIV/Aids sufferers. This will never be a solution to
deal with the scourge. Isolation should never feature in any government
policies or programmes. In any event, the disease is not contracted by being in
the company of a victim. Nothing will happen to you if you live or coexist with
persons with HIV/Aids.

Isolation would reverse all the gains that
Kenya has so far achieved in the fight against the pandemic. With isolation,
Kenyans will stop attending VCT clinics, stop going for tests, stop collecting
ARVs as a result of fear of being arrested and locked up in isolation camps.
This would be tantamount to criminalization of HIV/Aids. With the development
in science, persons living with the condition are living longer than before.
They are going on with the normal activities of nation-building. Isolation
would affect the development of the nation and slow down industrial as well as
economic growth since very many Kenyans in the labour market are either
affected or are infected with the disease. With isolation we would have to
close down schools and learning institutions for lack of students who would be
‘serving’ life sentences in isolation camps. The right to education as provided
for under our new Constitution and the Children’s Act would be a pipedream for
many.

The Constitution provides us a guarantee
and assurance that we shall enjoy our natural and constitutional freedom from
torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment at all times.

Article 27(1) stipulates that every person
is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit
of the law. The constitution provides that the State shall not discriminate
directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex,
pregnancy, marital status, health status etc. Isolation is a clear form of
discrimination on the basis of status and health condition.

Under Article 31 of the Constitution,
every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have
information relating to their family or private affairs unnecessarily required
or revealed. Isolation will be an obvious exposure of the status (private
information) of the persons with HIV/Aids. We shall easily know the HIV/Aids sufferers
from the simple fact that they live in the isolation camps. This will expose
them to a lot of stigma. The victims will as a result suffer inequality before
the law. This is not any different from the proposal to brand or mark the
backsides of persons living with HIV/Aids.

Every citizen has the right to enter,
remain in and reside anywhere in Kenya. You will agree with me that nobody
would like to remain confined at HIV Island for even a single day. Isolation
would take away the freedom of movement of the victims.

The child’s right to a parent would be violated
the minute the parent or the child is taken away. All the international
instruments and treaties condemn inhuman and degrading treatment. I do not have
any kind words for Fidel Castro and his infamous isolation policies.

For those suffering from HIV/Aids, take
courage and soldier on. The Constitution has enough safeguards for you. We have
courts and we shall not allow you to be bundled out of the warmth of your homes
into “Guantanamo Bay”. In any event, there are no isolation camps in Kenya.