The Associated Press is reporting that three HIV-positive women in Namibia are suing their government, claiming they were sterilized against their will following admittance to hospital for treatment unrelated to their reproductive health. This is the first legal challenge of its kind in the country; the government maintains that all three women gave their consent for sterilization and that they will be fighting the women’s claims for damages.
The case raises uneasy questions regarding the treatment of HIV-positive women in Namibia and potential discrimination against them as a result of their condition. Vicky Noa, who has organised protests in support of these women and their plight, states that there should be ‘peace of mind that if you have HIV you can still go to hospital and be treated with dignity and equality.’
I’m in total agreement with Vicky here – no woman, regardless of her health, age, race, sexual orientation or anything else for that matter, should be scared to attend a medical professional for fear that their reproductive rights be taken away without their consent. No woman should be scared to access medical assistance through fear.
In a county where it is estimated that one fifth of the population live with HIV, it is worrying to consider what impact this type of news story might have on health in the country – if it is perceived that the state health care system can’t be trusted, will this drive HIV-positive women to turn to less reliable, non-state or even amateur methods of health care?
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