What to expect at first HIV military discrimination case in Zambia
May 19, 2009
I arrived in Livingstone, Zambia on Monday for the first ever case in Zambia to determine whether discrimination by the military on the basis of HIV violates the Zambian Constitution. The case goes to trial tomorrow, Wednesday.
At the heart of the case are two former employees of the Zambian Air Force who were allegedly tested for HIV without their consent, not informed of their status, placed on anti-retrovirals without their knowledge, and then dismissed due to their HIV status. As will become clearer from their testimony on the stand, this failure to inform them of their status and their eventual dismissal has wreaked havoc on their lives.
The ZAF has denied testing them for HIV and has denied dismissing them because of their status.
You can read more about the case here.
So a few things to know before Wednesday:
- I expect the trial to last 3 or more days. During that time Paul Mulenga, the passionate lawyer for the two former employees, expects to call the two men, their former colleagues, a psychologist, psycho-social counsellor, an HIV expert, and a medical doctor to testify.
- I don’t know how many or who the Attorney-General’s office is going to call to testify.
- A number of other countries in the region, including Nambia and more recently South Africa, have rejected HIV discrimination in the military noting that there is no medical or policy reason for such a practice.
- I will try to provide regular updates of what is happening in the courtroom, but that will depend on internet connectivity in the High Court. At the least, I can promise to post at the end of the day on the day’s happening.
Finally, we (SALC) are a legal organization and I am a lawyer so there will be discussion of the legal issues and strategy involved in the case. But I also am hoping to give folks a sense of what happens inside a courtroom especially in a groundbreaking trial; a lot of that is less about the law itself and more about people and their stories. So I hope readers will let me know what they want to hear more about and what they could do without!