Kenya Programme HIV and AIDS Press Communique

In response to the withdrawal of the Kenyan local TV advert promoting the use of condoms among unfaithful married couples, ACORD Kenya programme released the following Press Communiqué. 

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HIV and AIDS Press Communiqué

Date: 4 April 2013.

Stigma, and denial of vital information for facilitating behaviour change amongst populations will not only pose a higher risk of HIV infection, but will also reverse the efforts towards the fight against HIV/AIDS. Discrimination against women’s access to prevention information in the fight against HIV/AIDS can only be compared to a flame on petrol.

With great disappointment we are witnessing a serious case of gender based discrimination and exclusion, through religious based complaints that led to rejection of  a safe sex  media advertisement aimed at addressing women's right to protection of health and safety against HIV infection. Those against the Government of Kenya, USAID and UKAid sponsored TV advertisement claim it fuels promiscuity.. With all due respect to this moral view point, it is important to acknowledge that infidelity in couples is a vice that has not yet been effectively tackled by several strategies. Therefore this move scales down enormously the gains we have made so far in fighting discrimination against women and rights to access to education messages for all categories of the population irrespective of their moral standing. Many women are blind to their susceptibility to HIV infection due to limited access to information, attributed to: exclusion from information dissemination fora.  In Kenya, the recent past advertisements targeted men with the exact same message for example the “Maina Kageni ana yake, Nawewe je?” These advertisements went further to depict men boasting in entertainment joints on how prepared they were. It is interesting that these messages did not raise mayhem from the moralists.  Why didn’t these same conservatives demand for a retrieval of those advertisements too? Men and women have equal right in accessing information and therefore we should work on creating awareness for the young, middle aged and the old because HIV and AIDS cuts across all populations.

From a legal perspective the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the rights of women in Africa (Maputo protocol) clearly states under article 14(d) that every woman has a right to self protection and to be protected against sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS. Under The Constitution of Kenya 2010 article (43(1)(a) provides that every person has a right to the highest attainable standard of health including reproductive health. The HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2006 under section 24(1)(2) stipulates that one who is HIV positive should take measures to prevent knowingly infecting another person. Under section 24(3) it is an offence punishable by law to knowingly infect another person with HIV. Therefore in our view keeping silent about the need for people to use condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is a violation of the rights of women to access information and prevention.

The need to address the high HIV prevalence rate within marriage/regular partnerships in Kenya is no longer a debatable issue and should be given due attention, if the trend is to be reversed. The advertisement was evidence based, given that a massive 44.1% of all new infections are occurring in stable or long-term relationships; three times higher than the prevalence rate among Female Sex Workers (FSWs)!  There is evidence of risky sexual practices among couples in Kenya like having multiple sexual partner which exposes the persons involved at a much higher risk of contracting HIV especially during the period following new infection (a few weeks to one month) when viral load is high and people are likely to transmit HIV (KAIS, 2009).. According to the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS) of 2009, about 80% of all persons infected with HIV do not know their status.

 

The existence of a high Sero-status discordance rates among couples and people in relationships, suggests that marriage and regular unions may well be a ‘high risk’ situation with variable patterns of initial introduction of HIV into the union. (KNASP, 2009/10 - 2012/13).

While religious institutions have had remarkable contribution in the fight against the HIV epidemic hitherto, it is important to note that many of the strategies generally used may not effectively address varying sexual behaviour in the population. Since communities are not homogenous entities, different approaches are required to directly tackle the variations there in. The media here presents the best opportunity to reach out to all categories of the population. , “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses” - Malcolm X.

 

Based on the statistical evidence on the prevalence rates amongst married couples/stable relationships and the legal framework that is laudably progressive, dothose who hold the moralist view   want the public to continue believing that women  for one reason or the other do not engage in  extra marital affairs? Rather than denying, actors in the fight against the epidemic should  be conscious of the current  trends in sexual behaviours of various groups  and institute effective responses  to protect the innocent children in affected  families .

As a progressive nation, of people who are not only deeply religious but also concerned about rights to health for all, it is our duty to  integrate health, moral, cultural and religious perspectives in our fight against HIV/AIDS. There is need to change masculinity perceptions in the African society where a man is uploaded for his adulterous behaviour and considered “The Man”, yet when it is the woman, she is rendered immoral. We need to develop a pragmatic and realistic view of the epidemic trends in Kenyaby dropping retrogressive attitudes and prejudice, to effectively protect the rights and dignity of women who play an invaluable role in the political, social, cultural and economic sectors of the country.

We therefore urge those wishing to silence the debate on condom use to curve the spread of HIV/AIDS to rethink their position as well as provide workable solutions to the epidemic rise, given that experience and statistics clearly show that preaching abstinence and faithfulness although contributing, is not sufficient to protect people from HIV/AIDS.

Let us all come together to fight this pandemic that has orphaned innocent children and left many families vulnerable to the AIDS impact. This move will also strengthen the efforts instituted by the Government and the international community towards the support of holistic HIV Prevention methods.

ISSUING ORGANIZATION: ACORD, the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development, is a Pan African organization working for social justice and development in 17 African countries since 1976, particularly on issues of women’s rights, HIV/AIDS and the right to health, sustainable livelihoods and peace building. We believe that people themselves are the primary actors in their own development and through civic driven change African citizens can have the ability to transform their future. ACORD is an NGO with Special Consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN-ECOSOC).

More information on ACORD’s work on HIV and AIDS: 

CONTACT PERSON INFORMATION:

Emmah Nungari

emmah.nungari@acordinternational.org

020 272 11 85

www.acordinternational.org

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