From the Harvard Health and Human Rights journal:
By Sara L.M. Davis and Allan Maleche
Hands off our fingerprints! That was the message from Kenyan civil society activists who blocked the use of biometric data, such as fingerprints or iris scans, in a government HIV study.
This case study of rights advocacy is the subject of a report, Everyone Said No: Biometrics, HIV and Human Rights, a Kenya Case Study, published by KELIN and the Kenya Key Populations Consortium.“Key populations” in HIV are defined by WHO as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in prison or other closed settings. The case study was written by the authors of this blog and researchers at KELIN and the Key Populations Consortium. It provides an overview of the HIV epidemic and data gaps on key populations in Kenya, an analysis of the legal and human rights issues in use of biometrics in HIV research, and documentation of the advocacy by key populations groups in Kenya. It also makes recommendations to global health donors, Kenyan authorities, and civil society groups who face similar debates in other countries.
The purpose of the government HIV study was to fill critical gaps in data on key populations in Kenya, to enable better targeting of resources. The government research team aimed to use biometric data to manage the risk of double-counting, given that key populations tend to be highly mobile. As soon as Kenyan key population groups learned about the plan to use biometrics, they became vocal in their opposition, citing concerns about criminalization. In Kenya, sex work, drug use, and same-sex sexual behavior are all criminalized. Through persistent advocacy, they successfully blocked any use of biometrics in the study. It will proceed using other methods.
We will launch the report with a Twitter chat at 15:30 CET (16:30 EAT) Thursday 5 July – join the conversation with @KELINKenya.