IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis (02.25.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
HIV/AIDS activists are pressuring the eight Kenyan presidential candidates to sign a manifesto that guarantees increased HIV testing availability, elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission, and “accelerated rollout” of antiretroviral therapy (ART). The activists claim they can deliver votes to the candidates who demonstrate commitment to caring for the 1 million HIV-infected Kenyans. More than 100,000 HIV-infected Kenyans currently lack ART access.
Until HIV/AIDS activists staged demonstrations that disrupted campaign events, the Kenyan presidential candidates had not addressed Kenya’s $1.67 billion shortfall in HIV funding during the campaign. The final question in the country’s first-ever presidential debate addressed HIV/AIDS and the need for improved healthcare, but platforms of the two leading candidates—Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Raila Odinga—provided little to no HIV content.
By demonstrating at a Bomet campaign rally for Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, activists succeeded in forcing Odinga to promise a 15-percent increase in health budget funds and ART access for all HIV-infected Kenyans. A similar demonstration at a Kenyatta Jubilee Coalition rally in Kisii was not immediately successful in drawing a similar commitment from Kenyatta. However, Kenyatta’s campaign has promised to unveil a detailed HIV/AIDS plan before the election. In his 2009 service as finance minister, Kenyatta signed an agreement to increase health funding by 40 percent. A third candidate, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, also has promised additional HIV/AIDS funding.
According to Paul Davis, director of global campaigns for Health Global Access Project, HIV-infected Kenyans are now willing to forgo traditional tribal affiliations and vote for the candidate who commits to improving HIV/AIDS services.