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Uganda jails nurse for 'transmitting' HIV

AFP , Monday 19 May 2014
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A court in Uganda on Monday jailed a HIV-infected nurse for three years for criminal negligence, after she inserted a needle into a two-year-old child after first pricking herself.

Rosemary Namubiru, 64, was arrested in January and her case has been sharply divisive -- with some newspapers branding her the "killer nurse" and accusing her of knowingly trying to infect the patient -- but HIV/AIDS activists asserting she is an victim of growing stigmatisation.

Initially charged with attempted murder, Namubiru was finally convicted of professional negligence under a section of the Ugandan law covering any deliberate act likely to spread infectious diseases.

"What happened is that she was trying to put a canulla (needle and tube) on the baby, but he was moving a lot and she pricked herself. Once the baby calmed down, she still went on and used the same canulla," explained Stella Kentutsi, head of the National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda and a supporter of the nurse.

She also condemned what she said was "hype and misinformation from the media" surrounding the trial.

The child has not tested positive for HIV, although officials have said it may be too early to tell.

The case comes a week after the Ugandan parliament passed a new legislation that criminalises the deliberate transmission of HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, a move that MPs have argued is necessary to halt a rise in infections.

Rights groups, however, argue the new law will only further stigmatise those living with HIV and dissuade people from getting tested.

Uganda was once heralded as a success story in the fight against HIV, with President Yoweri Museveni being among the first African leaders to speak openly about AIDS and the government mounting a highly successful public awareness campaign in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Infection rates initially dropped from double to single digits, but according to the most recent statistics, from 2011, the national prevalence rate rose to 7.3 percent from 6.4 percent in 2004-05 -- with health officials blaming increased complacency.

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