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Kenyan lawyers trained on how to use law to protect PLHIV rights

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Mr. Okome Arwa, a board member of KELIN, leads the discussion at the training

“There is a lack of understanding of human rights among both the legal practitioners and the bench. Coupled with the lack of legal awareness by the ordinary citizen, this poses a great challenge to the enforcement of rights. There is need to exploit the opportunities presented by the Constitution in order to develop jurisprudence on HIV in Kenya,” said Mr. Okome Arwa, a KELIN board member, during the seminar for lawyers on HIV Law and Human Rights in Kenya.

The seminar, from 21st to 23rd November, was organized by KELIN in partnership with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV (NEPHAK) and with support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF). The main objective of the workshop was to share knowledge on HIV, law and human rights with a view of ensuring that participants use this information to protect and uphold the rights of those living with and affected by HIV.

Sessions were facilitated by senior lawyers with vast experience on HIV, law and human rights. They included Mr. Ambrose Rachier, Chair of KELIN and the HIV and AIDS Equity Tribunal; Ms. Catherine Mumma, Commissioner of the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC); Mr. Otiende Amollo, Chair of the Commission on Administrative Justice; and Mr Arwa, (all board members of KELIN).  Mr. Nelson Otwoma, National Coordinator of NEPHAK also made a presentation on HIV in Kenya while Dr Zipporah Ali, Executive Director of KEPHCA made a presentation on the role of lawyers in palliative care.

Some of the key topics discussed at the seminar included: an overview of HIV and human rights and the relevant constitutional provisions; legal and ethical issues relating to HIV, legislating and litigating HIV in the Kenyan context; and developing HIV jurisprudence challenges and opportunities. Debate sessions and personal testimonies by PLHIV and videos were used as training tools.

At the end of the seminar Julius Juma, a pro bono lawyer with KELIN said:

This seminar has been an eye opener for me as I am now clear on how to use the law to protect the rights of those living with and affected by HIV. I call upon KELIN to undertake similar trainings in all the 47 counties of Kenya.”

All 20 lawyers from Nairobi, Nakuru, Kakamega and Embu counties who participated in the seminar signed up as pro bono advocates for KELIN. In an effort to actualise the recommendations of the report of the Global Commission on law and HIV, KELIN is developing an online database that will link potential clients living with HIV with these advocates. This is seen to facilitate access to justice for PLHIV. KELIN will conduct a similar training in December in Kisumu County. The full workshop report will be shared on KELIN’s website.

38 Comments

Lyla Latif

November 27, 2012

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Human rights, in particular the rights of PLHIV are greatly influenced by an individual’s culture and preconception. The law therefore is vital in the realization and enforcement of their rights. The training experience at KELIN was not only educative but a humbling experience. All persons are equal before the law.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 28, 2012

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    Lyla, we are happy to have you on board as a KELIN probono lawyer. We are glad that you now appreciate that all person are equal before the law. We look forward to the exciting work ahead as we seek to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of those living with and affected by HIV.

Ruth

November 27, 2012

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Excellent, and thanks to the great lawyers who have commited to share with others

    KELIN Kenya

    November 27, 2012

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    Thank you for your comment Ruth. We hope that we shall soon have a pool of lawyers available to promote protect and fulfill the rights of those who are leaving with and affected by HIV in Kenya.

Patrick Eba

November 27, 2012

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Training for, and engagement of, the legal community on the linkages between HIV, the law and human rights is as vital for effective HIV responses as the provisions of condoms or ARV treatment. Lawyers that are well informed on, and sensitive to, HIV-related issues can help challenge stigma, discrimination and other human rights violations, including through litigation; thus contributing to realising zero discrimination against people living with HIV and key populations at higher risk of HIV.

It is great to see that KELIN is conducting such training for lawyers in partnership with the Law Society of Kenya. We hope that there will be many more of such learning and experience sharing opportunities in Kenya.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 28, 2012

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    Patrick, we agree with your comment on the importance of the linkage between HIV, law and human right as a vital response to HIV. Just like the UNAIDS, KELIN is committed to ensure we have zero discrimination against people living with HIV. We shall continue to partner with the Law Society of Kenya and other interested bar associations in Kenya. We kindly request you to profile our work with your other stakeholders in this sector.

Nelson

November 28, 2012

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From the perspective of PLHIV and those affected by AIDS and TB, this training is really important because then it sensitizes lawyers and advocates on the sensitive needs of men and women living with HIV and which may be difficult to deal with unless such a training is done and topics such as HIV and AIDS are included.

More importantly, in as much as Kenya has HIV Equity Tribunal, most of the human rights abuses involving PLHIV and TB patients are criminal in nature (meaning they cannot be dealt with at Tribunal level). PLHIV and affected communities need friendly courts and understanding lawyers who can help them mitigate cases of human rights abuses they go through. Lawyers also need to interact with PLHIV and TB patients whose rights have been abused (or who think their rights have been abused). This is the other importance of KELIN training

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Nelson, thank you for providing the chance to ensure that lawyers interact with persons living with HIV and outlining the importance of the training as relates to the needs of PLHIV. We do hope that these lawyers will be available to you and your networks to provide the much needed legal advice and support with a view of realizing the rights enshrined in our Constitution.

David N. Njoroge

November 28, 2012

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TEAM KELIN Kudos and keep up the good work! The training was superb and beyond my expectations, the knowledge gained has helped alot in dealing with some prejudices i may have previously held. I now understand my role in creating a better place for the minority in the society. I am glad to report that the skills gained were put to test today when a transgender parent walked into my office with the child for some legal advice and he really commended my handling. All thanks to you.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Thank you David. We are elated to know that you are translating the information received into action by particularly giving advice to a transgender parent. We are always available to support you with your cases and to build your interest in this subject matter.

David Rabera

November 28, 2012

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From the training I realized that, the existence of rights without acknowledging them is like lighting a candle and putting it beneath the bed where it cant light enough. mmmm! the session was indeed interactive, and what else? Probably another one for the whole month? Kudos Kelin Kenya

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    David, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we shall not have another training for the whole month, but a refresher course mid next year to hear some of the work you will have taken forward as result of the training. We are glad that you found the training useful.

Grace Macheru

November 28, 2012

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KELIN keep up the good work. It was such an educative seminar. There is more than meets the eye in this whole issue of HIV AIDS. l now know how to handle/deal with PLHIV. The Law is important in realizing the rights of PLHIV and there was no better way of learning this without attending the seminar. Looking forward to more educative seminars

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Grace we shall keep up the good work. Thank you for your comment and its true their is more than meets the eye in issue of HIV. We are glad that you now have the skills to handle and provide legal advice to persons living with HIV. We definitely shall let you know of more relevant seminars and look forward to hearing some of the good work you shall do as a result of the training.

Zipporah Ali

November 29, 2012

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It is important for lawyers to understand the legal aspect of palliative care and work closely with health care providers to ensure that patients legal needs are addressed. Patients worry about medications, especially pain relieving drugs, they have no access to. They worry about their families, who will take of their children. How can they write a will?. Lawyers can work with health care providers to give support to patients and their families; provide pro bono services and educate patients.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Dr. Ali thank you for sharing with the lawyers the issues around palliative healthcare and the role of lawyers. These team of lawyers will be available to support your work from a legal perspective. Do let us know when you need their services.

Priti Patel

November 29, 2012

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This is a great initiative and one we hope to replicate in southern Africa! Congratulations to the entire team on putting this together.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Thank you Priti. The Southern Africa Litigation Centre manuals on cases relating to testing and discrimination in the context of HIV in SADC, were very useful resources. We do hope that you can run similar initiatives in Southern Africa with a view of increasing the pool of lawyers in the region who are available to provide legal support to those living with and affected by HIV.

Emma Day

November 29, 2012

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This is an excellent and essential training, and it is great to see the strong partnership between KELIN, LSK and NEPHAK. It is important to recognise that lawyers do not necessarily receive training on human rights or HIV related issues at law school, so in order to be able to practice effectively in this area lawyers need detailed trainings such as this which cover the legal and ethical issues involved in helping clients living with or affected by HIV.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Emma we agree with your comments.The partnership is indeed useful. We do hope that these lawyers will demonstrate through their work that when such information is provided to lawyers they can use it to better the lives of those living with and affected by HIV.

Martin Rabera

November 29, 2012

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This meeting was really informative.We had powerful presenters and trainers. I came out of the traing having a different mind and vision as to the rights generally and specifically, the rights of PLHIV . I realized that having rights without acknowledging them is like lighting a candle and putting it beneath the bed so that it cant give enough light. Kudo Kelin Kenya. looking forward for another training.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 29, 2012

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    Martin we are glad that this training opened up your mind to the rights of persons living with and affected by HIV. We look forward to hearing more on the work you shall do to take this forward.

Anne Mwatha

November 29, 2012

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Until this training by KELIN i had not realised how much the Law has provided for the protection of PLHIV. and how much an advocate can do to safeguard the rights of PLHIV.

This training was particularly God send for me. This is because prior to becoming an advocate i practiced as a registered nurse.The stigma and discrimination occasioned on PLHIV in the hospitals i worked in was very real and truly heartbreaking.Many of the people trampling on the rights of the PLHIV actually believe they are doing these people a favour or imagine that they do not deserve to be treated with dignity because they are HIV+.

I intend to use the knowledge i received at the training to defend the rights of the stigmatised and create awareness of the rights of those stigmatised and discriminated against to my peers in the medical/legal profession on a one on one basis and at every forum i have an opportunity to address. Thank you KELIN I am so much richer.

    KELIN Kenya

    November 30, 2012

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    Anne we are happy to support you in the work that you will do in ensuring the rights of people living with and affected by HIV are protected from discrimination. Your previous training as nurse was useful at the meeting to help break down some of the medical issues that arose. We are now glad that you know how to safeguard the rights of PLHIV.

Brian Citro, Senior Research Officer to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health

November 30, 2012

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Congratulations on conducting this important session. It’s great to see work being done that promotes a deeper understanding of how the law may be used to strengthen the rights of PLHIV in Kenya. Lawyers and judicial officers alike stand to benefit from these sessions.

I also want to reiterate the point made by Nelson, particularly in the context of people living with TB. It is critical to understand how criminal, civil and constitutional law impact the lives of people living with TB, for both the better and the worse. We must understand how the law can be used as a tool to protect the rights of people living with TB and we must work to develop human rights jurisprudence in the courts toward this end. This includes working closer with affected communities and promoting dialogue about their concerns amongst decision-makers at all levels of governance.

    KELIN Kenya

    December 3, 2012

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    Brian, thank you for your comment and kind the remarks. We agree with you.KELIN continues to work on TB cases looking at how some of the existing sections of the Public Health Act, in relation to isolation of infectious patients, may be violating the rights of patients infected with TB. We seek to develop some human rights jurisprudence around the contemplated place of isolation. We also welcome partnerships with interested organizations in this area.

Woodrow Wilson Rading

December 1, 2012

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AIDS is wiping out gains in social and economic development while discussions about safer sex, injecting drug users, MSM are a taboo and with it goes down the rights and protection of PLHIV. Effective legislation like the one we have in place albeit the many challenges and hurdles which characterised its enactment; constitutional provisions as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 are a milestone but the basic key is undertaking appropriate law reforms in the other relevant and related statutes and the most critical is spearheading public interest litigation on PLHIV.Thanks to KELIN’s activities, this will be achieved and signing up as pro bono lawyers and trainers commits us to the promotion of their rights.Aluta Continua!

    KELIN Kenya

    December 3, 2012

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    Wilson, thank you for your comments. Appropriate law reform in other relevant statutes that affect HIV with a view of aligning them with the provisions of the Constitution is a key activity that KELIN is involved in with other stakeholders. We are glad that you are on board to support us on this.

Nduru Gichamba

December 6, 2012

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I must admit that the forum was a complete eye opener in terms of both actual knowledge of the law and its application on the ground. I shall in my practice be able to apply the skills and knowledge picked up therein in my pursuits in serving the public as a pro bono lawyer in the cause.

    KELIN Kenya

    December 6, 2012

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    Gichamba, we are happy to hear that you shall apply your skills and knowledge from this workshop to the serve the public. The legal aid clinic on Friday in Nyeri in partnership with Kenya AIDS Ngo Consortium provides you with an opportunity to do so. Do let us know how it goes.

Daniel Wolfe

December 7, 2012

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Great that this training has happened. As people who inject drugs (or other criminalized populations vulnerable to HIV) know well, access to justice can be as critical to AIDS prevention as a condom or antiretroviral treatment. KELIN is among those groups that reminds us that the law can be a powerful tool in the hands of people committed to ensuring those with HIV, or those at risk, do not have rights abuses added to their burdens.

    KELIN Kenya

    December 12, 2012

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    Daniel we thank you for your comment. We fully associated ourselves with the contents of the statement that you have made.

David Scamell

December 11, 2012

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Increasing access to legal advice and representation for people living with HIV and other marginalized and criminalized groups in society such as sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs is an essential and effective way of combating the impact of HIV. KELIN should be congratulated for initiatives such as this training, which are an important step in achieving this goal.

    KELIN Kenya

    December 12, 2012

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    David thank you for your comment and compliment. We do agree that access to legal services is crucial for members of the key and affected populations. For the next three days we shall be training another set of lawyers who soon be available to provide legal advice and support to persons living with and affected by HIV.

Tamar Ezer

December 14, 2012

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Congratulations on this, KELIN! As always, you are pioneering work to ensure justice and human rights protection for people affected by HIV.

Also, a warm welcome to the pro bono lawyers. I hope you will find this work personally enriching and intellectually stimulating.

    KELIN Kenya

    December 20, 2012

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    Tamar, thank you for your compliments and kind comment. With your support we shall continue to pioneer on work that ensures access justice for people affected by HIV.

Kimberly Nanjala

December 26, 2012

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Lawyers have a role to play in using the law to protect persons living with HIV. It is therefore important that they should understand the legal and ethical issues related to HIV so that they can build on their capacity on how to best handle this vulnerable group.

Thanks to KELIN i gained a lot of knowledge on issues related to HIV & the Law from the training conducted by KELIN in Kisumu. PLHIV in Kenya now have an opportunity of accessing legal services.Kudos KELIN!

    KELIN Kenya

    January 11, 2013

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    Kimberly, we agree with you and we are delighted to know that you gained a lot of knowledge at the training. We trust that you will use the knowledge at your position in KASH to promote the rights of those living with and affected by HIV.

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