When asked if I would be willing to be a delegate to the Health Rights Conference in Kenya, my first dialectic response was a bit like Teyve in “Fiddler on the Roof”–On the one hand…I should not go, that is a big expense, there should be better uses for the funds. Yet, on the other hand…perhaps I can be of some service to the cause. In the end, I chose to accompany the Physicians for Human Rights US group as a witness to what I believe are important changes in health rights for the people of Kenya.
My first visit to Kenya was almost forty years ago. It was before I committed to my life work, but what I saw then as a hitchhiking college student helped shape my choice to become a physician and to dedicate myself to providing health care services to those in need. Now I am a physician at a clinic for the poor in Kansas City, Kansas where I follow about 600 people with HIV.
My last visit to the continent of Africa was to the International AIDS Conference in 2000 in Durban. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa publicly stated HIV does not cause AIDS and he forbade government doctors from offering prevention or treatment. Other nations in Africa recognized the growing threat of AIDS as the numbers of people infected by the deadly disease increased. At the time the biggest “boon” in Africa was the growth of the coffin industry.
It will be interesting to see how the people in Kenya view the importance of health rights and how they are finding ways to extend better health to more people. I look forward to the coming week.
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