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Ugandan nurse on trial for spreading HIV to toddler

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Uganda authorities have arrested 64-year old nurse Rosemary Namubiri, charging her with attempted murder for having injected her blood into a 2-year old patient. Dubbed the “killer nurse by the local press,” Namubiri, who is HIV positive, is said to have accidentaly pricked her finger while trying to give the child and injection on January 7th. While she did bandage her finger, it is believed that she resumed treatment of the toddler using the tainted needle.

Although prosecutors argued against granting her bail after her arrest, stating that “she posed a grave danger to the public, the charge was lowered to one of criminal negligence during her trial. If convicted, however, Namubiri could face 7 years in jail. She would also be the first healthcare worker in Uganda to be sentenced under a colonial-era law prohibiting “negligent acts likely to lead to the spread of infectious diseases.” The case is also a prime example of the lax standards found in hospitals throughout the country.

In the meantime, the child, who was tested after receiving the injection, will be retested for HIV within the next week according to the AIDs-Free World advocacy group, which has been monitoring the trial, and who (up until recently) had praised Uganda for being a “world leader in fighting the disease, as well as promoting an open attitude to HIV/AIDS.” They now fear that Namubiri’s case may result in a “severe setback for the fundamental rights of people living with the infections both in Uganda, as well as other nations, where they remain severely stigmatized.

It is now estimated that more than 7% of Uganda’s population (somewhere around 1.4 million people, including 190,000 children) are infected with HIV, a jump from 6.4% reported in 2006. It has also been reported that more than 1 million Ugandan children were left orphaned by the AIDs epidemic in 2011 alone.