Two Kenyans have been feted for playing a sterling role in the fight against HIV/Aids during 22nd International Aids Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Lawyer Allan Achesa Maleche and Mr. Zachary Kwena were presented with the prestigious Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation and The Women, Girls and HIV Investigator’s prizes respectively. The latter also received a $2,000 cash award.
Speaking at the conference, International Aids Society (IAS) President Linda-Gail Bekker said: “Allan Maleche knows that the law is a powerful tool to protect human rights… As a tireless crusader for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV and TB, Allan has achieved legal victories that have not only protected individuals.
They have also led to smarter, more effective policies that reject stigma and discrimination and advance more humane and effective approaches to ending the twin epidemics of HIV and TB.” Mr. Maleche is the first Executive director of the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN).
With his colleagues, he has litigated lndmark cases that halted the forced sterilisation of women living with HIV, stopped the unjust use of public health concerns as a reason to incarcerate people living with TB, and prevented the government of Kenya from making the names of children living with HIV available to the public, amongst others.
According to a press release, under his leadership, KELIN has gained international reputation for confronting powerful institutions and winning landmark cases protecting the rights of people affected by HIV and Tuberculosis.
Mr. Maleche noted: “There are many days when the challenges we face in Kenya and in so many other countries around the world can seem endless. They are a reminder that human rights must be fought for every day.” The Trustee of the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, Mr. Quinn Tivey said: “Twenty-six years ago, my grandmother Elizabeth Taylor focused the world’s attention on this epidemic at the 8th International AIDS Conference here in Amsterdam.
Whenever she spoke about AIDS, my grandmother made it clear that respecting the human rights of everyone living with and at risk of HIV is the only way to end the epidemic. She would have been proud to see this award go to such a dedicated human rights crusader, Allan Achesa Maleche.”
On his part, the Foundation for Aids Research, amfAR Chief Executive Kevin Robert Frost observed: “We are proud to support this recognition of Allan Maleche and all of the women and men of KELIN. Their work proves that the most effective laws and policies put human rights at the forefront of the HIV and TB response.”
Meanwhile, The Women, Girls and HIV Investigator’s prize was awarded to Mr. Kwena for his research titled “Barriers to linkage and retention in HIV care among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in communities around Lake Victoria in Western Kenya.
The $2,000 prize is funded by IAS and UNAids, with the support of the International Community of Women with HIV/Aids (ICW) and the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW). The prize supports research on gender-related issues—including community-based interventions and investigations– that will provide critical evidence and information on which to base responses to the rising HIV incidence among women and girls, particularly in resource-limited settings.
In Kenya, for example, the National Aids and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) Head, Dr. Kigen Bartilol says about 41 per cent of new HIV infections are occurring among adolescents aged between 15 to 25 years. The 22nd International Aids Conference assembles more than 15,000 researchers, activists and policy makers drawn from more than 160 countries.
The conference, which is the largest gathering on HIV and Aids in the world, was first convened during the peak of the Aids epidemic in 1985.