Kenyan wins landmark HIV ruling

A HIV-positive Kenyan woman has won $35,000 in a landmark ruling against her employer for unfair dismissal.

The 45-year-old waitress, whose identity has been withheld, also sued her doctor for revealing her HIV status without her consent.

The High Court ruled that it was unlawful to end employment on the grounds of a person's HIV status. None of the defendants admitted liability.

About 2.5m out of 32m Kenyans are currently living with HIV/Aids.

The woman's former employer, Home Park Caterers, said the company had not requested a medical test, and was not aware of her status when she was sacked.

But the former waitress told the court that her letter of termination said she had been sacked on medical grounds, and for being unable to perform her duties.

The High Court's decision is the first such ruling in Kenya.

Correspondents say many people with HIV are afraid to admit their status because of the discrimination they could face.

'Invasion of privacy'

The former waitress told the court that when she went to hospital complaining of chest pains and rashes, Dr Primus Ochieng tested her for HIV without her consent.

She told the court that Dr Ochieng and the Metropolitan Hospital then disclosed her status without her consent to her employer, in breach of doctor-patient confidentiality.

The court declared that testing employees or prospective employees for HIV without consent constituted an invasion of privacy and was unlawful.

Disclosing an employee's status to their employer without their consent was also unlawful, the court ruled.

The former waitress said her employer and colleagues knew about her HIV status before she did.

She said that she only found out it when she went back to the hospital and requested her medical report.

She had worked for Home Park Caterers for eight years before she was dismissed.

BBC Online

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