Example 5: Using medical-legal partnerships to promote the rights of people living with HIV

Example 5: Using Medical-Legal Partnerships to Promote the Rights of People Living with HIV  

Project Type: Advocacy

The Organizations

Legal Aid Center of Eldoret (LACE)
Eldoret, Kenya
E-mail:  info@lacelaw.org
Website:  www.lacelaw.org

Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK) Nairobi, Kenya
Website:  www.chak.or.ke 

The Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret (LACE) and the Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK) are closely related in purpose and organization. Founded in 2008 by Kenyan attorneys and judges, LACE works to provide access to justice for those living with HIV in Western Kenya. In similar fashion, the Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK) comprises 435 member health facilities throughout Kenya, 15 of which provide not only health services but also rights awareness and legal services to their clients. Both organizations work to provide health and human rights to those living with HIV in western Kenya.

The Problem 

An estimated 1.4 million people live with HIV in Kenya and they face stigmatization, discrimination, derogatory stereotypes, and pervasive prejudice. As a result, people living with HIV experience legal issues related to the denial of property rights, criminal charges, unfair dismissal, breach of confidentiality, physical and sexual abuse, and child support payment disputes.

Actions Taken 

LACE (The Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret): Health care workers at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) office in western Kenya have training to recognize legal problems expressed by their patients. When a legal issue arises, the medical workers refer their patients to LACE, which occupies an office directly across the street from the AMPATH office. The LACE attorneys refer the patients to pro bono attorneys practicing in the area or the pro bono legal clinic at Moi University School of Law. Clients also receive referrals for psychosocial support services. Once their legal needs are addressed, they are referred back to AMPATH social workers.

CHAK (Christian Health Association of Kenya): CHAK and the Kenya Episcopal Conference health facilities account for approximate 40% of all health service providers in Kenya. CHAK’s attorney travels regularly to 15 of CHAK’s health facilities to train health care workers to recognize human right violations. The lawyer also works with community leaders to foster the creation of community organizations that monitor and report human rights violations.

Results and Lessons Learned 

LACE: LACE combats the so-called “third epidemic” of HIV—the economic, social, and cultural effects HIV has on a community and on individuals. By working closely with AMPATH, an established health care provider, LACE receives a high volume of clients and is able to address the health and human rights abuses of those often-marginalized people who live with HIV. In 2009, LACE counselled 336 HIV-positive clients.

CHAK: In 2011, CHAK received 198 cases, most of which they referred to lawyers at partner organizations. CHAK’s legal officer emphasizes the need to work closely with community opinion leaders, as they are critical in responding to most HIV-related human rights violations. She also recommends carrying out an initial needs assessment and identifying stakeholders for partnership because it is not possible for one organization to address all of the community’s needs.