Jailing of HIV-positive Ugandan nurse in negligence case "outrageous"

by Katie Nguyen | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 17:13 GMT

A medical officer takes down a woman's details before she takes an HIV/AIDS test at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb of Uganda's capital Kampala May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu

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Advocacy group says stiff sentence for HIV-positive Ugandan nurse is excessive, aimed at placating those worried by rising HIV rates

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The three-year jail sentence handed down to an HIV-positive nurse in Uganda for re-using a needle she had accidentally pricked her finger on, is "outrageous", a U.S.-based advocacy group said.

AIDS-Free World, which has followed Rosemary Namubiru's trial closely, said the 64-year-old did not deserve to spend three years in prison "by any reasonable measure".

A Ugandan court sentenced Namubiru, a nurse with 35 years' experience, to jail on May 19.  She was convicted of criminal negligence for giving a two-year-old boy an injection with a needle on which she had accidentally pricked her finger.

Namubiru pleaded not guilty and media reports said court records showed the boy did not become infected with HIV.

"The magistrate only found Rosemary guilty of being temporarily distracted on the job and of being HIV-positive – nothing more," AIDS-Free World co-founder Paula Donovan said in a statement emailed to Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

"This punishment wasn't chosen to fit the so-called crime, but to placate an angry, misinformed public that is re-traumatized by its rising rates of HIV," she added.

There has been a resurgence of HIV infections in Uganda, once praised as a success in the global struggle against HIV/AIDS. The East African country slashed infection rates from a high of 18.5 percent in 1992 to about 5 percent in 2000, but the infection rate has crept back up to about 7 percent today.

Uganda passed a law last week making it a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison to transmit HIV "wilfully and intentionally." Rights activists have criticised the law on the ground that it will fuel discrimination against HIV-infected people.

“Rosemary's outrageous sentence is just a preview of the injustice to come unless President Museveni rejects the HIV bill awaiting his signature and restores reason in his country," Donovan said.  

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