Prisoner in African Jail Sues to Get HIV Meds
An AIDS awareness campaigner and his lawyers said Friday they are taking a groundbreaking test case to Zimbabwe’s highest court to force police and prison authorities ensure HIV sufferers get their life prolonging medication.
Douglas Muzanenhamo said in papers filed at the Supreme Court that he was denied appropriate antiretroviral treatment in jail for three weeks last year and his condition veered toward death.
Muzanenhamo, who has been HIV-infected for 18 years, was freed without charge in March 2011 after police arrested bystanders at a lecture in Harare on the Arab Spring they claimed was in preparation for a revolt in Zimbabwe.
In court documents released Friday, he said he was kept in filthy cells making prisoners with HIV susceptible to fatal infections. He said he was held in solitary confinement for demanding his drugs.
Sudden changes in drug treatment over 48 hours are known to lead to a sharp deterioration in the body’s immune system, even if the drug is resume patients are at risk that the treatment will not be effective, leading to their death.
In the first lawsuit of its kind, citing as respondents Zimbabwe’s police and prison commanders, government ministers and the nation’s attorney general, the chief law officer, Muzanenhamo said on the day of his arrest officers at the main Harare police station didn’t allow him to call his family to bring medication he took twice daily to a precise timetable.
After lawyers intervened, his family brought medication two days later but they were kept by police and not given to him at the prescribed times. Then he was given a single prison issue tablet once a day that he was unfamiliar with.
In the court deposition, he said he was "totally dependent" on the drugs, along with a healthy diet, to stay alive.