An 11-word WhatsApp group message by a man alleging that one of its members was HIV positive has seen him ordered to pay a Sh850,000 fine.
The HIV/AIDS Tribunal chaired by Carolyne Mboku directed the man to pay the money to the complainant, identified as PMM, in general damages.
He had posted: “Naskia uko na ukimwi, si umeze tu madawa juu ya kujinyonga (I hear you have HIV, just take drugs to assist you in committing suicide).”
The two were members of a social media platform called, ‘ODM TEAM MATUNGU SUBCOUNTY’ a WhatsApp group of not less than 170 members.
The complainant said on July 3, 2022, he was engaged in a political discussion on the said WhatsApp group, where he posted a comment that was divergent from the respondent’s view of the likely person to win the Matungu parliamentary seat.
In retaliation, the man posted a comment on the WhatsApp group alleging the complainant was HIV positive. The post was viewed by all members of the group and he said it made him suffer stigma and loss of dignity.
The offended member said he sent a private message to the man requesting him to stop insulting him and posting in various political WhatsApp groups false allegations about his HIV status. Still, he was unapologetic for his actions and dismissed his pleas as nonsense.
A screenshot of an apology request was presented in court.
“Nonsense” was all that the respondent texted in response to the claimant,” read the judgment in part
The complainant claimed that he faced discrimination in the group and other groups where other people resorted to mockery and talking about his status. He stated that he feels rejected by his social peers to the extent that he does not have the freedom to freely express his views in the social media forums.
He further said he has faced many challenges ranging from social to psychological, as a result of the remarks and is currently undergoing counseling.
He testified that word on his alleged HIV status got to his wife who in turn moved from their matrimonial bed and started sleeping in a separate bedroom.
He said some people in his local church avoided sitting next to him, talking behind his back and avoiding him. The respondent never entered an appearance nor filed a response to the claim despite service.
The tribunal while determining the case said a person’s HIV status is a private affair and should not be disclosed to third parties without his or her consent.
“HIV status is a private affair whose disclosure can and will cause mental distress and injury to a person, hence the need to keep this information confidential,” ruled the tribunal.
The tribunal further issued an order restraining FO from disclosing PMM’s HIV status, discriminating, stigmatizing, and or harassing him.
PMM was also awarded Sh3,000 as special damages.