On Wednesday, 20 May, the Livingstone High Court will hear a ground-breaking case determining whether mandatory testing for HIV and discrimination solely on the basis of HIV status is constitutional in Zambia.
The case, Kingaipe and Another v Attorney-General, involves two former Zambian Air Force (ZAF) employees, Stainley Kingaipe and Charles Chookole, who were allegedly subjected to mandatory testing for HIV without their knowledge and dismissed due to their HIV status. The two men are seeking reinstatement and damages for mental and emotional anguish.
Priti Patel, a lawyer with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) says: “As decisions in South Africa and Namibia make clear, there is no legitimate medical or policy reason for discriminating against HIV positive persons in the military and subjecting them to testing without their consent. Zambia should send a clear message to the military that such unlawful treatment will not be tolerated.”
Both applicants in the case worked with the ZAF for over 13 years, having joined when they were 21 years old. They held non-combat throughout their career at ZAF. In 2001, they were allegedly subjected to an HIV test without their consent or knowledge and given anti-retroviral treatment without their knowledge. In October 2001, without their knowledge or participation, a Medical Board reviewed their medical records and declared them permanently unfit for service. They both continued to work at the ZAF for a full year after the Board decision, performing so well in their job that one of the applicants was promoted during that time. Neither of them took a day of sick leave during that one-year period. In October 2002, they were both dismissed.
Dimuna Phiri, a paralegal with Zambian AIDS Law Research and Advocacy Network (ZARAN) stated: “The testing of individuals without their consent not only violates fundamental rights guaranteed in the Zambian Constitution, but it also has been shown to have harmful public health consequences by increasing stigma and further pushing HIV into the shadows.”
SALC and ZARAN are assisting the Legal Resources Foundation of Zambia in the case.
SALC will be blogging regular updates from the trial which can be found at SALC’s website: www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org.
Patel, explained why SALC had chosen to blog from the trial: “Given the groundbreaking nature of this case, we wanted to provide a window into the courtroom for those people who could not attend the trial in person.”
Priti Patel, SALC +260 97 819 2706