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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • HIV-positive people want constitutional rights
    February 04, 2010

    AIDS activists in Zimbabwe have launched a major drive to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV are enshrined in the new constitution.

    The Global Political Agreement signed in September 2008 between Zimbabwe's various political rivals, which gave rise to the coalition government in February 2009, includes writing the new constitution expected to be introduced in 2010.

    "We are not calling for a token participation, but significant and meaningful involvement that will go a long way in promoting our welfare and rights when the constitution is adopted," Tonderai Chiduku, advocacy coordinator of Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (ZNPP+), told IRIN/PlusNews.

    The Southern Africa AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAFAIDS), a regional non-profit AIDS organisation, also met recently to map out how HIV-positive people could participate in the constitution-making process. Country Representative Monica Mandiki noted that the current constitution did not have any explicit reference to the right to healthcare, and was "silent on HIV".

    SAFAIDS and ZNNP+ are calling for a bill of rights that would promote better access to health services. An estimated two million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, one of the countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, but have never before been actively involved in such legislation and do not have representation in parliament, Chiduku said.

    "Because the two million people living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe continue to face grave challenges in accessing treatment, social services, basic healthcare, education and other socio-economic rights, it is important to highlight the need for an expanded Bill of Rights in the new constitution, with provisions on non-discrimination and equal protection before the law," ZNNP+ said in a recent statement.

    The activists have also urged policy-makers to include a clause that would commit the government to spending a minimum of 10 percent to 15 percent of the national budget on healthcare, Mandiki told IRIN/PlusNews.

    But the odds of getting their voices heard are slim. "The fact that we don't have decision-makers in the process militates against us, because there is no guarantee that those that form the bulk of the leadership and steering teams [writing the constitution] will be sensitive to our needs," Chiduku admitted.

    The campaign also calls for the constitution to provide prisoners with "free and uninterrupted antiretroviral therapy, adequate food, and access to qualified medical professionals by the state, as the need arises".

    SAFAIDS and ZNNP+ will be holding policy dialogues throughout Zimbabwe to collect the views of networks of people living with HIV, which will be included in a national document to be presented to the committee heading the constitution-making process.

    "While our main hope is to be given more representation in the process of writing the new constitution, we will push to ensure that the views of people living with HIV and AIDS ... [are heard]," said Chiduku. "We cannot leave anything to chance because the constitution defines the laws that affect us."

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