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Kenya to Force Schools to Admit HIV Positive Children - 2002-07-25


Kenya's government is planning to introduce legislation to force schools to admit children infected with the HIV virus.

Kenya hopes to become the first African country to outlaw discrimination against people who are infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

A draft bill has been prepared and the government hopes it will become law before the end of the year.

Some of the people hardest hit by the disease are Kenya's one-million AIDS orphans. Many of these children are themselves infected with the virus.

Protus Lumiti is manager of Nyumbani Children's Home in Nairobi, which houses 83 orphans infected with HIV. Mr. Lumiti said he has been trying to get Nairobi schools to accept his children as students for the past seven years without success.

"The headmistresses and headmasters refused literally to admit them because they are HIV-positive children," Mr. Lumiti said. "We came to realize that it was lack of information and education."

One private school has agreed to accept the Nyumbani students. But the school's fees are 12 times higher than those of government schools.

Ambrose Rachier is chairman of the task force that drafted the legislation on HIV/AIDS discrimination. He says the proposed law sets penalties for schools that use what he calls a smokescreen to discriminate against HIV-positive children.

"The sanctions I'm contemplating are those of being prosecuted and jailed or fined," he explained. "It's easy to go behind that, what I would call a smokescreen, that a school is full. If a school is able to show that, Well, we are full but we also have HIV-negative and HIV-positive, fine. But if we are able to show that it is full because they have taken only HIV-negatives, it's something we can easily prove in a court of law.

The proposed law also seeks to protect the inheritance rights of Kenya's AIDS orphans, who are often cheated out of their parents' property by relatives.

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