The Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Zambia are seeking legal reforms in an effort to end discrimination against them. an estimated 20 percent of Zambia’s adult population lives with the virus that leads to aids. Reporter Kellys Kaunda has that story from Lusaka.
Over 20 Lusaka-based members of the Network of People living with HIV and AIDS held a workshop recently to identify areas of the legal system that may help address their concerns. Paul Mulenga, who is not HIV positive, was the resource person at the workshop. He said, “ currently as the law stands in Zambia, it’s not friendly to people living with HIV and AIDS. So we can’t start telling people what the law can do for them if it’s not helpful to them. So, we want to make them understand the current law the way it is and then ask them how they want the law to be”.
Participants identified some areas of the law that are of particular concern to them as people living with the aids virus. Stella Mbewe who attended the workshop says participants placed particular emphasis on human rights.
She said, “ In a way we have seen that a lot of people have been discriminated more especially in work places. People have been dismissed without being given proper reasons while others have been tested without their consent”.
Another participant, Joseph Chibuye, knew of his HIV status five years ago. he says he was particularly inspired by the bill of human rights as contained in the Zambian constitution.
Mr. Chibuye said, “ We learnt of our rights particularly those related to a person like me living with the virus like right to privacy; right to live; freedom of movement, freedom of expression. I have got all the rights. These are rights and not privileges”.
The recommendations from the workshop are expected to be presented to the Ministry of Legal Affairs and other institutions. The network of people living with HIV and AIDS says it’s hopeful that their concerns will see the light of day in view of government pronouncements on the need to fight HIV and AIDS.