26 February 2012

Kenya: Partners May Access HIV and Aids Records Under New Bill

People who think they can keep secret their HIV positive status from their partners are in for a shock because the latter can walk to a health centre and demand access to the information.

According to a tough new Health Bill expected to become law within three months, an individual's health information will remain confidential even with a devolved sector, except records on HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

"If the infected individual refuses to inform his or her partner accordingly, the partner will apparently have the right to access the information held by the health service on the matter," says the Bill.

Although this is alluded to in the current Aids Act, the Bill says the necessary modifications and access demand will be prepared to make this possible.

The Bill, which covers many health and legal aspects, says no Kenyan should be denied emergency medical care for lack of money.

If such a case is reported, the responsible medical personnel is liable for a Sh200,000 fine or a three-month jail-term, or both.

In the devolved health system, it will no longer be difficult for patients to complain of mishandling or mistreatment in hospitals because all such facilities will be required to display the procedures for reporting a complaint.

"The procedures for laying complaints must be displayed by all health establishments in a manner that is visible for any person entering the establishment and the procedure must be communicated to users on a regular basis," says the draft by the two ministries of Health.

Because the Constitution guarantees all Kenyans a right to medical care, anybody refusing treatment for a life threatening condition or where a doctor thinks it is necessary, will be required to confirm the refusal in writing.

In a move that could hit hard on the many nutritional supplements and foods claimed to have healing properties, the law will require that these be registered just like medicines.

All medicines and vaccines will only be registered in the country after they are proven that indeed they offer the claimed effect.

The counties will be responsible for promoting regular physical activities and providing the necessary space and facilities for such in their areas of jurisdiction.

Also they are expected to counter the excessive use and adulteration of alcohol products as well as use of tobacco.

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