Ugandan nurse accused of spreading HIV

2014-04-14 07:52

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Kampala - Goaded by journalists who wanted a clear view of her face, the Ugandan nurse looked dazed and on the verge of tears. The Ugandan press had dubbed her "the killer nurse," after the HIV-infected medical worker was accused of deliberately injecting her blood into a 2-year-old patient.

The 64-year-old nurse, Rosemary Namubiru, was charged with attempted murder, denied bail and sent to jail in an unusual case that many here saw as a horrifying example of the lax hospital standards believed to be prevalent in this East African country.

But in the course of her trial — on the revised charge of criminal negligence — the nurse is attracting sympathy and emerging as the apparent victim of rampant stigma in a country that until recently was being praised as a global leader in fighting Aids and promoting an open attitude toward the disease.

The nurse, while attempting to give an injection to a distraught child on 7 January, accidentally pricked her finger with a needle, according to Aids-Free World, an international advocacy group that has been monitoring the ongoing trial.

 After bandaging her finger she returned to administer the injection, apparently using the contaminated needle.

Uncertain about whether the same needle was used, the child's mother "became concerned about the possibility that her child had been exposed to HIV", the group said. After a test showed the nurse was HIV positive, she was arrested and prosecutors argued against giving her bail on the grounds that she posed a grave danger to the public.

If convicted, the nurse faces seven years in jail and would be the first Ugandan medical worker to be sentenced under a colonial-era law against negligent acts likely to lead to the spread of an infectious disease.

Post-exposure treatment

The child who may have been exposed to HIV was given post-exposure treatment and will be tested again for HIV in coming days, according to lawyers and activists familiar with the case.

Namubiru's trial has consequences for the rights of people with HIV and Aids, say Aids activists in Uganda and abroad.

Uganda, which achieved global attention in the 1990s for its efforts to stem the spread of the disease, has about 1.5 million people living with HIV out of a total population of 36 million.

Activists note that it's virtually impossible to find a Ugandan family that hasn't been affected by the disease since it was first reported here in the 1980s. Yet stigma toward people suffering from Aids persists, shocking activists.

The nurse's case illustrates "the failure of both the media and the prosecutor's office to act responsibly" and could set "a dangerous precedent and could have grave consequences for the fundamental rights of people living with HIV and Aids in Uganda and beyond," said Aids-Free World, in a statement.

Namubiru shouldn't be on trial and her case should simply have been referred to the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council, a statutory body charged with protecting the public from unsafe nursing practices, said Dorah Kiconco, a Ugandan lawyer who runs a watchdog group called the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/Aids.

"She was working and she got into a bad accident and it should have been treated as such," Kiconco said. "She's on trial because of her HIV status."

Jane Kajuga, a spokesperson for Uganda's public prosecutor, defended the decision to press charges, saying there's evidence a crime was committed.

"Stigma still rages on"

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law said the nurse's "life has been ruined. No matter the outcome of the trial, the panorama of ferociously intemperate accusation will haunt her and her family forever".

Uganda's HIV rate has been rising in recent times, confounding officials who succeeded in reducing the prevalence from 18% in 1992 to 6.4% in 2005.

Now the rate stands at 7.3%, according to the most recent survey by Uganda's Ministry of Health. Ugandan health officials say more married couples are getting infected, in part because of what campaigners have dubbed a "sexual network" in which married people keep secret lovers.

Billboards in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, urge couples to "put your love to the test" by testing for HIV.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last year publicly tested for HIV in a bid to spark similar action among reluctant Ugandans. Although being HIV positive no longer spells a death sentence, even for poor Ugandans, public knowledge of one's HIV-positive status can destroy a life.

A Ugandan man who worked in the presidential palace as a gardener recently accused his bosses of firing him after they discovered that he was infected with HIV.

Ugandan Major Rubaramira Ruranga, one of few officials who have publicly revealed they have HIV in a bid to discourage stigma, said the case against the nurse proves that "stigma still rages on" in Uganda.

"If I were her I would be very angry, I would feel isolated and I would feel dejected," he said. "She was brutalised."
- AP
Read more on:    uganda  |  health  |  hiv/aids  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You are in a curious mood and you want to be the first to know what is happening. You may find yourself drawn into cyber chatting...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.