A woman asked her neighbour to stop digging a latrine as the dust was unsettling. However, her neighbour blurted that she should stop complaining as she would die from HIV/AIDS anyway. [iStockphoto]

When James was writing in the Holy Bible about the tongue being a small body part but which causes immense troubles, perhaps he had foreseen a fierce tongue-fight between neighbours over a pit latrine which has ended up being a very expensive one.

In his writing, James stated that a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. He continued in his chapter three and verse five that the tongue is also a fire.

This is how. Sometime in 2013, a woman was hosting a self-help group in her house. Her neighbour was in the meantime digging a pit latrine near a window. However, dust from the ongoing construction was unsettling the meeting.

The woman stepped out to ask the neighbour to stop digging.

However, he retorted that she should stop complaining about the dust as she would eventually die from HIV/AIDS anyway.

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Those who were in the meeting heard the verbal attack.

In an escalation of the verbal altercation, the woman dragged the man to the HIV and Aids Tribunal. She complained that as a result of the comment, she has faced stigma, discrimination, and psychological torture.

She also lamented that she has been exposed to an environment that enables hazardous diseases like malaria as the pit has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes which is not good for her low immunity.

The man was summoned through the area chief on September 18, 2023. However, he never appeared.

After hearing the victim, the Tribunal ordered that the man should pay Sh500,000 as compensation for unlawfully disclosing the woman's health status.

At the same time, the Tribunal headed by Carolyne Mboku directed him to also demolish the pit latrine and fill up the hole.

“This Tribunal in exercise of its mandate to promote public awareness about the causes, modes of transmission, consequences and means of prevention and control of HIV and AIDS, and the open pit dug outside the claimant’s window is a hazard to her health." said Mboku.

"The Claimant has established a prima facie case with a probability of success. Malaria poses a danger to persons living with HIV and Aids due to increased risk and severity of the disease resulting from their lowered immunity,” she added.

In the case, the complainant also called her husband as a witness. The man stated that at the time his wife was telling the neighbour to stop digging the pit latrine, he was in the bedroom.

According to the husband, he heard his neighbour claim that his wife was HIV positive and that she would die.

The petitioner also called one of the women who were in the meeting. She, too, testified that the defendant was mocked owing to her HIV status.

In the end, the Tribunal found that there was a likelihood that the man’s statement was heard by third parties owing to the proximity of their boundary.

“The respondent had no right to talk about or disclose this information without the authority of the Claimant. Failure to respect this privacy is a violation of the person’s right to privacy as provided for under section 22 of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act,” the Tribunal ruled.

It ordered that the defendant and his family should not use the pit latrine and it should be demolished with the supervision of the area chief.