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By Antonia Chan
The High Court of Kenya has begun reviewing two important cases on the human rights of people living with HIV. The first concerns the forced or coerced sterilization of HIV-positive women; the second challenges a directive from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to list the names of HIV-positive individuals, including children. KELIN, an NGO that promotes and advocates for HIV-related human rights in Eastern Africa, has helped spearhead the push for the Kenyan High Court to address these cases, which will be heard on July 29 and August 14, respectively.
The sterilization of HIV-positive Kenyan women without their consent first sparked outrage in 2012, when a report titled “Robbed of Choice” described the experiences of 40 women living with HIV who had been forcibly or coercively sterilized. Five of those women are now suing the Kenyan government for violations of their health and human rights. In a paper published in HHR’s June 2013 issue, Uberoi and de Bruyn noted that some of these women were even asked to sign consent forms for their sterilization while in labor. The authors concluded that punitive and restrictive laws related to pregnancy have numerous adverse consequences—both health-related and socioeconomic—for women, and urged human rights groups to work with government institutions to protect and fulfill women’s fundamental reproductive rights.
President Kenyatta’s directive to collect a list of HIV-positive individuals has also sparked protests that the information will be used for “naming and shaming.” KELIN warned that the directive would “roll back years of work on HIV” by discouraging people from seeking diagnosis and treatment out of concern for their privacy or negative social repercussions. This fear is well-founded: for example, in Mexico, pregnant women living with HIV have reported that after their diagnosis, they were misinformed about available treatments and discriminated against when they sought medical treatment. Forced sterilization without prior consent also occurred in some of these cases.
Protecting patients’ reproductive rights and health-related confidentiality are essential obligations not just for Kenya and Mexico, but for all nations. The Health and Human Rights Journal author Allan Maleche is a human rights lawyer and the Executive Director of KELIN. In the Journal’s December 2014 special issue on health rights litigation, he argued that “strategic litigation can be used to ensure that access to the right to health is realized,” specifically in the context of essential medicines. Now Maleche is helping KELIN and organizations such as UNAIDS take two other health rights issues to court: the reproductive and privacy rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
More HHR Papers on Reproductive and HIV-Related Rights:
Other Papers by Allan Maleche:
Papers In Press
Europe’s Shifting Response to HIV/AIDS: From Human Rights to Risk Management
HIV, Hepatitis C, TB, Harm Reduction, and Persons Deprived of Liberty: What Standards Does International Human Rights Law Establish?
Gen Sander and Rick Lines
International Human Rights and the Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth
Rajat Khosla, Christina Zampas, Joshua P. Vogel, Meghan A. Bohren, Mindy Roseman, and Joanna N. Erdman
HIV and the Right to Health in Colombia
Corey Prachniak-Rincón and Jimena Villar de Onís
Transforming Policy into Justice: The Role of Health Advocates in Mozambique
Ellie Feinglass, Nadja Gomes, and Vivek Maru
Reproductive Health Policy in Tunisia: Women's Right to Reproductive Health and Gender Empowerment
Nada Amroussia, Alison Hernandez, and Isabel Goicolea
Letter to the Editor: Moving the Debate Forward in Right to Health Litigation
Octavio Luiz Motta Ferraz
Letter to the Editor Response: On the Heterogeneity and Politics of the Judicialization of Health in Brazil
João Biehl, Mariana P. Socal, Joseph J. Amon
Terminal Patients and the Right to Refuse Medical Treatment in Argentina
Martín Hevia and Daniela Schnidrig
Book review: Advancing Global Health and Human Rights in this Neoliberal Era
Harvard FXB Health and Human Rights Consortium Student Essay Competition:
Human Rights, Law and Abortion in El Salvador
Lessons from Jonathan Mann: The Ten Commandments on Multidrug-Resistant TB
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