Key milestone achieved!
On Monday April 23, 2012 at the 4th Meeting of its 5th Session, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) debated and passed the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Bill, 2012!
The passing of the Bill by EALA marks not only a key achievement, but also one of the two most crucial steps towards realization of a regional HIV & AIDS legislation applicable to the 5 countries of East Africa, namely, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi; the other key step being the Assent to the Bill by the EAC Heads of States –the Presidents of the EAC Partner States.
The passage of the Bill is a major score for the civil society in the region who were instrumental in bringing the Bill into life. EANNASO and the Regional Task Force on HIV & AIDS Law and Policy in the EAC are all very excited about the prospects of the history that is about to be made and what all this will mean to the people of East Africa after the 4 -year efforts! The Bill seeks to harmonize and strengthen the national responses to HIV and AIDS in the EAC Partner States by providing a regional legal framework for the attainment of a synergistic and more coordinated response which shall, in turn, contribute to the overall reduction in HIV incidence and prevalence rates in the EAC.
The Bill takes a progressive approach by emphasizing on prevention whilst embracing the other key aspects of the response to the pandemic, namely, treatment, care and support. It takes the Rights –based Approach (RBA) in its content and spirit and provides for the application of the RBA in its application and in HIV & AIDS programming in the region. Further, in a more progressive fashion, it fosters the promotion, actualization and protection of human rights of all in the context of HIV & AIDS.
EANNASO - the Chair of the Regional Task Force, for and on behalf of the Task Force members, namely, Actionaid International –regional office, African Network of People living wth HIV –East African Chapter (NAP+EAR), Alliance Burundaise contre le SIDA (ABS), CNLS Burundi (Burundi National AIDS Commission), East Africa Law Society (EALS), Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), Rwanda NGO's Forum on AIDS and Health Promotion, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Uganda Network of Law, Ethics and HIV & AIDS (UGANET), Volunteer Services Organization (VSO) – Tanzania and Women Organizations Network for Human Rights Advocacy WONETHA wish to extend our sincere appreciation and thank the members of the EALA, the Office of the Clerk -EALA, Trade Mark East Africa, UNDP Regional office for East and Southern Africa, the EAC Secretariat and all other key stakeholders who have contributed to the initiative reaching where it is today.
It has indeed been a long, challenging but fulfilling journey culminating into the recently –held EALA General Purpose Committee meeting of 13th and 14th April 2012, in Nairobi, Kenya to review the Bill, receive the views of East Africans following the Public Hearings on the Bill held in all the 5 EAC Partner States on 12th April, 2012 and compile a report for EALA. All these were preceded and other key activities –cum -milestones over the four –year period (April 2008 – April 2012), including, among others:-
- a regional legal audit of the HIV & AIDS laws;
- a 5 - country stakeholder consultation;
- a regional stakeholder consultative meeting;
- a regional stakeholder (consolidation) meeting; drafting of the Bill;
- and a regional consultative meeting of Parliamentary draftspersons from the region to review the Bill.
The Bill will now await Assent by the EAC Heads of States before it can become an Act of the Community. This, however, calls for concerted efforts by advocates in HIV & AIDS, Associations and networks of Persons living with HIV, CSOs, Development Partners and all key stakeholders in mobilization, lobby and advocacy to achieve the much needed assent by the Heads of State. We call upon all to walk with us and assist in every way possible.
Together we can!