Online political forums can get heated with belligerent exchange of unprintable words but as one member of the Rarieda Political Forum learnt online exchanges can also cost you Ksh. 900 000; a costly fine by any standards.
On May 7th 2021 the HIV and AIDS tribunal heard a case where a man, MO (names edited to protect privacy) disclosed the HIV status of a fellow member GO, as a political discourse got heated. The disclosure was followed by a myriad of events that would turn MO’s life upside down and also cause him mental anguish.
Trouble in the WhatsApp group started on May 14, 2019, when GO expressed divergent political views from MO and the latter went into an angry rant in native Dholuo where he alleged that GO was HIV positive.
He repeated the sentiments on two other occasions in both English and Luo languages. Efforts by a section of the 250-member group to make MO apologise and pull down his messages failed to bear fruit with MO insisting that GO was free to take his complaints to the International Criminal Court.
The back and forth between the two members would culminate in a case filed at the tribunal on November 27, 2020, where GO wanted MO restrained from disclosing his HIV status or harassing and discriminating against him.
Also in his prayers was compensation for his badly affected dignity, emotional and psychological suffering after his wife left with their child citing his failure to disclose his status. The tribunal also heard that GO also had to relocate from Siaya to Nairobi because he faced ridicule back at the lakeside town.
In his defense, MO said that GO had allegedly called him corrupt and urged the tribunal to throw out the case.
.The seven-member tribunal led by Hellen Namisi found MO in violation of the law following the disclosure of GO’s status whether real or perceived, without his consent in addition to discriminating against him. Mo was directed to pay Ksh. 900,000 with Ksh.400,000 being compensation for the unlawful disclosure while Sh500,000 is to compensate him for damages and trauma because of the disclosure.
The tribunal also ruled that the claimant suffered stigmatisation as a result of the unlawful disclosure of his status by the respondent the tribunal held.
People living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) often face a lot of discrimination when their status is revealed to the public with some confessing to having been denied jobs, housing, and freedom of association. The law in Article 31 of the constitution is very clear that everyone has a right to confidentiality regarding personal information.