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Kenyans protest brutal killing of HIV-infected boy

By Staff
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NAIROBI, Apr 20 (Reuters) Several hundred Kenyan AIDS activists today took to the streets of Nairobi to protest the killing of a 5-year-old boy, whom they say was hacked with a garden fork by his uncle because he had HIV.

A week after orphan Isaiah Gakuyo was killed in Nyeri, central Kenya, police were still looking for his uncle, the boy's guardian.

About 300 people joined today's demonstration, saying the killing highlighted the stigma faced by those living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

''The boy was facing violence on a daily basis,'' Inviolata Mwali Mmbwavi, one of the march organisers who runs a group working with Kenyan AIDS victims, told Reuters.

''We don't want this to happen again,'' she added.

Asunta Wagura, executive director of the Kenya Network of Women with AIDS, said Gakuyo was often beaten and denied food at home.

''We supported him as he was an unwelcome dependent in the family,'' Wagura said, adding that the organisation had been trying to find him another home.

HIV/AIDS prevalence in the east African country has declined to 7 per cent in 2003 from about 10 per cent in the late 1990s.

But thousands of Kenyans living with the virus face death because of a lack of access to even the cheapest anti-retroviral drugs, which are too expensive in private hospitals and not available in public ones.

Despite several campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, campaigners say deep stigma persists in Kenya, with HIV-positive people often shunned by their families and local communities.

REUTERS SHB RAI1909

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