A new system for registering people living with HIV using biometric scanning is being declared ready for use after extensive testing in Kenya.
In a joint study conducted by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, Kenyatta National Hospital, and the University of Washington 8,794 individuals throughout western Kenya were registered using a biometric iris-scanning technology.
As a pre-condition for continuing to receive AIDS relief via the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, otherwise known as Pepfar, Kenya was asked to provide a unique patient identification method for its HIV-focused funded projects. A failure to meet these conditions by the end of the next fiscal year would result in reductions to Kenya’s aid package, according to Pepfar Director Deborah L. Birx.
The push by the U.S. and Pepfar for a more reliable identification system was based around concerns that the raw numbers of HIV patients in the country were being inflated in order to obtain more funding.
The study concluded that “(t)his indicates that the HIV programme in Kenya may be ready for biometrics use for unique patient identification, a key priority for Pepfar.”
This biometric data collection program has proven far less controversial than past attempts by Kenya’s government to use the technology to document its citizens. Over the past several years, civil rights groups have successfully fought off attempts by the Ministry of Health to use biometrics to register gays and sex workers in the country, arguing the data could be used to persecute individuals identified through the initiative. The U.S. threatened to cut off funding until legal safeguards were put into place by the government.
The breakthrough in the use of biometric tech in Kenya comes following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s signing of the Data Protection Bill 2019 into law last week, which allows for the collection, storage and use of biometric data. The bill does, however, grant rights to individuals on how and when the data may be collected, stored and destroyed.
Source: Standard Digital
November 19, 2019 – by Tony Bitzionis