A Ugandan nurse has been sentenced to three years in jail after being found guilty of criminal negligence for allegedly trying to infect her 2-year-old patient with HIV. On Jan. 7, the 64-year-old HIV positive nurse, Rosemary Namubiru, was accused of injecting the infant’s vein with the same needle she had pricked her finger with. The baby was kicking and crying when the needle accidently pricked Namubiru’s index finger. She stepped away to clean and bandage her finger, and when she returned, she used the same needle. The child’s mother was the first to notice the same needle was used and Namubiru was immediately arrested.
She was denied bail by a magistrate who ruled she posed a danger to the public. Court records indicate the baby was tested twice for HIV and both tests came up negative for the virus. There is a 0.3% chance of being infected with HIV from a needle contaminated by the virus, according to Ontario Hospital Associate/Ontario Medical Association.
Namubiru maintained her innocence throughout the trail, claiming there was no malice involved. Many international activist groups have railed in support of her. The advocacy and human rights organizations include the International Community of Women Living with HIV, Eastern Africa (ICWEA), Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET), The National Forum of People Living with HIV in Uganda and AIDS-Free World (NAFOPHANU), and by individual HIV advocates including Canon Gideon Byamugisha, Milly Katana, and Major Rubaramira Ruranga.
These groups argue Namubiru had already been found guilty in the court of the public opinion, before the trail began. They also accuse the media of libelous accusations appearing in media headlines and stories. For more information about why international advocacy organizations, like New York-based AIDS-Free World, support Namubiru, read their press release here.
Many other Ugandans see her case as a startling example of negligence by a trusted medical official. Shortly after Namubiru was charged, Ugandan lawmakers passed a law specifically criminalizing the intentional transmission of HIV, in an attempt to stem the growing rate of HIV in the country. Seven percent of adults in Uganda are infected with HIV, according to a 2011 survey by the Uganda Ministry of Health.