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Woman sues over use of photo that disclosed her HIV status

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A woman is suing a rights organisation that used her photo on its website, thus disclosing her HIV status.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says the use of the photo with the information on the website caused her anguish because it suggested she was.

She learnt of the photo through her relatives and friends, who subsequently disassociated themselves with her.

She also argues that she lost jobs from different organisations that would invite her for workshops. They presumed she was a sex worker and not a peer educator in counselling sex workers, who would be at risk of contracting the virus.

She took the organisation to the HIV-Aids tribunal, which after hearing both parties, ruled in her favour.

The tribunal found the acts of the organisation as “unlawful and discriminatory”, and ordered it to pay Sh1.5 million for mental anguish it caused the woman.

Read: Revealing someone’s HIV-Aids status is illegal

Aggrieved by the decision , the organisation moved to the High Court seeking to overturn the judgment and the award.

The organisation told the court the woman had consented to her photo being taken and approved its use vide a written consent  for use as educational and promotional purposes on its website.

The consent, the organisation says, meant the photo can be used worldwide without any restrictions or time limitation. 

And if anything, it said, the reference to her by the organisation did not describe her as a patient but a community mobiliser.

The organisation further argues the woman had declared her status in various forms of media nationally and internationally since early 1990s.

And for these reasons, it believes, the tribunal erred in law in holding the written consent between the two did not amount to a legally cognisable consent within the meaning of HIV-Aids prevention law.

The tribunal had held, among other things, that the publication of the woman’s photo on the website amounted to defamation and a violation of her rights to privacy.

The case will be mentioned on February 26.

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