Thickening stigma, Hon. Mathenge says:“Isolate HIV infected people!”
Madam Minister, have you forgotten this?
“Angel died last Saturday. She was 18. I was her doctor since she was four.Technically, Angel died of an AIDS-related illness. The truth is, Angel died from the stigma related to HIV.Angel contracted the disease at birth from her mother. With today’s medicine, she could have lived a long, productive life.But many people, including her family members, made her feel dirty because of HIV. She felt rejected.In shame, she refused to take her medication. Consequently, her HIV progressed to AIDS. The untreated AIDS led to her death.” http://dcentric.wamu.org/tag/hivaids/
It is a cause of deep concern that the minister for Special Programs, ( Office of the President) in Kenya today, 31st. January 2011, has displayed little understanding of her work by calling for the isolation of HIV/Aids infected people. But Esther Murugi Mathenge is on facebook and is an educated woman. What is afoot here? Hear us:
“Minister Mathenge, stigma kills people and spreads HIV/Aids.” Yours is a sensitive docket which depends on the Office of the President of Kenya. We need to know how policy may be affected by what the minister has said to Kenyans.”
The minister needs to know that there is much hunger in Kenya and elsewhere in the world for people to be accepted as who they are. Women, children, sick, old, young or of whatever ethnic origin need people who believe in all of them as human beings. Have you forgotten that there are many who are killed for being albino for example?
The minister needs to know that this is a crass and thoughtless statement in a country where people are trying to hard to deal with this pandemic. Nothing about HIV/Aids should be taken lightly. Ministers and all leaders have a grave duty to talk more about HIV/Aids but constructively. They should also test and let the public know their status.
She has destroyed the work of many years with her statement. This kind of talk was last heard from president Moi. Building the HIV stigma decreases the work of prevention and treatment of HIV. It makes people fear testing. The minister should be ecouraging people to reflect on their sexual behaviour with regard to HIV/Aids and not trying to behave like Adolf Hitler.
The anti stigma initiative urges that HIV positive people be supported. Others in the world “seek to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination to protect the human and social assets of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS through funding and researching promising approaches that can be readily applied by other national and community organizations.”
Kenya has made an amazing effort to tackle HIV over the years. In the 80s and 90s, or since the HIV virus was identified, Kenyan doctors and journalists boldly gave information on the disease. The late Achola Ndinya was among doctors who worked with IAVI and later KAVI along with to find a cure for HIV Aids. It was they who mapped and identified some women in the slums who although exposed to the virus and often, were not succumbing to infection.
Where has Esther Murugi the Special Programmes minster been for so long, that she fails to remember all the discussions that have happened regarding stigma that she should suddenly call for the locking up of HIV infected people? Does she not at least remember Assunta Wagura’s diary? Esther Murugi, the former Gender Minister worries me because she is a graduate of my Alma mater. Does power make us this blind? Is it possible that Esther all this time has not understood that we are all either infected or affected by HIV?
The Special Programs has made a terrible statement which some have termed as the most retrogressive statement of the times. Before her, only Moi. Hon. Mathenge should not only apologize in all channels of information in Kenya -and to Kenyans on facebook and all people- but also speak for hours on HIV Aids and those infected the care and love that they need.