Murugi fights back in row over Aids remarks

Thursday February 3 2011

Liz Muthoni | NATION Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi during a past press briefing in Nairobi.

Liz Muthoni | NATION Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi during a past press briefing in Nairobi.  

By JACOB NG’ETICH [email protected]

A Cabinet minister has defended herself over allegations of undermining the war on Aids.

Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi accused the media of misrepresenting her off the cuff comments during an Aids workshop for parliamentarians at the Coast.

During the seminar, Ms Murugi was quoted suggested that perhaps people living with the disease should be isolated to curb the spread of the virus.

On Thursday, the minister said the remarks were only meant to trigger debate on the prevention and control of the scourge. She claimed that the media was only misleading Kenyans by replaying bits of her statement.

“I was shocked by the misinterpretation of my remarks. I don’t understand why the media picked and hyped on my example which was only intended to trigger debate. But if I have offended anybody, I apologise,” said Ms Murugi.

She said other MPs at the workshop also made their suggestions, including that all boys be circumcised at birth and that men be allowed to marry more than one wife.

“But these were only suggestions,” she said.

Ms Murugi said that by using the example of Cuba, she was not proposing that Kenya follow the same line in fighting the disease.

“In Cuba, when President Castro was still very strong, anybody who was tested with HIV/Aids was actually locked somewhere, and once you went in, you did not come out. I don’t know whether we should be that drastic,” Ms Murugi had said during the workshop.

Lock in

“But, sometimes, I think maybe that is what we should do so that those who are ill are locked in, I’m just suggesting it, it is up to you to tell me whether we should do that or not,” she had added.

Ms Murugi has come under a barrage of criticism from people living with HIV and Aids, lobby groups and most recently First Lady Lucy Kibaki since she made the remarks.

There are 1.5 million people living with HIV/Aids in Kenya.