One of the most hotly debated meetings at the 16th ICASA (International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted diseases) concerned legislation and sexually transmitted diseases.
In some countries transmitting the HIV virus itself is a crime.
One of the panelists at the conference, Nyachae Jacinta, talked about the challenges of implementing the HIV and AIDS prevention and control act in her native Kenya. She said the law makes it difficult to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. Another speaker, Kenyan Paul Moses, who spoke about gender inequality and HIV said information about the new law is non-existent making it a challenge to enforce.
Another issue raised from the audience was the method to verify acts of discrimination and violation against people living with HIV/AIDS since they most commonly tend to be complex and perception based.
Nyachae and Paul said this is one of the problems with these new laws that some sections of the law make its implementation very difficult because the burden of proof it demands is high, and so they are fighting for some sections to be repealed.
However, they both acknowledged that the law has to go in tandem with scale up and sustainability campaigns. They said that creating awareness in the community about the new laws with information transmitted through networks created in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities and villages, as well as the creation of HIV tribunals for violations perpetrated under the new act, would help people who are discriminated against. The tribunal gives damage compensation when a particular party is found guilty of discrimination against an HIV/AIDS carrier.
Still Paul Moses explained that a person’s HIV status is between the doctor and themselves. There are laws in place stipulating 2-8 years imprisonment for deliberate infection. The panelists however acknowledged that the new law is still vague in its treatment of Civil Society Organizations and their roles as well as the rights of people with special needs like disabled people who happen to be affected with this pandemic.