The ministry is presently being sued in the Windhoek High Court for the alleged forced sterilisation of six women in state medical facilities.
Human rights groups claim that 40 out of 230 women they interviewed early in 2008 claimed they were sterilised without consent -and that a further 15 women have come forward after they alerted in the ministry about this.
The Legal Assistance Centre is claiming damages for the women on two grounds:
the alleged sterilisations without their consent by medical practitioners employed at state hospitals, or alternatively on the grounds of breach of duty of care that medical professionals owed each of the plaintiffs; and
*the sterilisation constituted a wrongful and unlawful practice of discrimination against each of the women due to their HIV-positive status, and is thus in breach of their basic human rights
Acting for the LAC, senior counsel Dave Smuts, told the court that “one common thread” between all the cases were that the women were living with HIV and the outdated notion was that women with the virus should not have children.
Dr Matti Kimberg, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, is providing expert evidence on the invasive nature and consequences of the procedures on the plaintiffs, he said.
The alleged forced sterilisation procedures constitute a profound invasion of his clients’ rights to dignity and personality, Smuts said.
The first plaintiff said the nurse only informed her when she was being taken to theatre for a C-section that “the doctor will remove her uterus “because all HIV-positive people must have it removed”.
The woman was given a forms to sign. The plaintiff’s lawyers will argue that the women did not understand the procedure or were coerced, and that the “informed consent” process was not followed correctly.
The hearing is expected to continue in the High Court.
The criminalisation of men who have sex with men is driving gay relationships underground in Africa and this discrimination is contributing to the spread of HIV on the continent.
The urgent need for access to health services for men who have sex with men, respect for their sexual orientation and protection in law, and lobbying for their human rights, emerged clearly at the M2010 Microbicides: Building Bridges in HIV Prevention conference in Pittsburgh, in the US, this week.
That was a key point in my article in the Sunday Times today – but I feel concerned that the headline “Secret gay sex fuels HIV spread in Africa” conveys a negative message.
What I feel negative about is the intolerable discrimination against men who have sex with men and how that isolates them from prevention, care and treatment.
As Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, said in response to the recent imprisonment in Malawi of two men for having a gay relationship: “The criminalisation of individuals based on their sexual orientation is not just a human rights issue – it also … drives sexual behaviour underground and creates an environment where HIV can more easily spread.”
An American insurance company was ordered by the court last year to pay Jerome Mitchell $10 million for “wrongly revoking his heath insurance policy”.
And this week Reuters revealed that: “Previously undisclosed records from Mitchell’s case reveal that Fortis had a company policy of targeting policyholders with HIV”.
“Mitchell not only obtained a measure of justice for himself; he also helped expose wrongdoing on the part of Fortis (now known as Assurant Health) that could have repercussions for the entire health insurance industry,” the Reuters story said.
“A computer program and algorithm targeted every policyholder recently diagnosed with HIV for an automatic fraud investigation, as the company searched for any pretext to revoke their policy.
“As was the case with Mitchell, their insurance policies often were canceled on erroneous information, the flimsiest of evidence, or for no good reason at all, according to the court documents and interviews with state and federal investigators.”
Reuters reported: “Insurance companies have long engaged in the practice of ‘rescission’, whereby they investigate policyholders shortly after they’ve been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
“But government regulators and investigators who have overseen the actions of Assurant and other health insurance companies say it is unprecedented for a company to single out people with HIV.
“In his previously undisclosed court ruling, the judge in the Mitchell case also criticized what he said were the company’s efforts to cover its tracks.”
It seems that Assurant Health has set a record new low with its illegal discrimination against people with HIV.
In South Africa the AIDS Law Project has fought countless battles in the courts to protect the rights of people with HIV.
Sesame street has been exported to 120 countries which adapt it to their needs. In South Africa one of the stars of Takalani Sesame is healthy, happy Kami – a five-year-old yellow muppet living with HIV.
Her name Kami means “acceptance” and her puppet tackles difficult issues such as loss – in the fifth season last year she mourned her mother’s death – and rejection with courage.
Kami is loved by everyone and her impact on children aged three to five has even been studied by the HSRC.
The revised policy allows the recruitment and selective deployment of HIV positive members of the SA National Defence Force.
The Constitutional Court ruled in May 2008 that the then-policy on HIV testing – used to exclude HIV positive people from being recruited, promoted or deployed on foreign soil – was unconstitutional.
ALP stated today that: “Cabinet’s endorsement of a fair and reasonable policy in employment and deployment of people with HIV in the SANDF represents a major victory for our Constitution and the rule of law in South Africa.
“It marks a turning point in the history of the country and is a world first. We hope it will be a model for military employment all over the world.”
ALP reported on October 26 that Sergeant Sipho Mthethwa of the SANDF’s 121 SAI Battalion “made history by being the first known HIV positive soldier to be deployed externally by the SANDF” on a peace-keeping mission to Sudan.