ZIMBABWE – ZIMBABWE’S Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the constitutionality of denying treatment to people living with HIV held in police and prison detention.
Through the Public Interest Litigation unit, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on 5 September 2012 filed a constitutional application seeking an order compelling police and prison officials to respect the rights to access medication of detainees living positively with HIV/AIDS.
ZLHR petitioned the Supreme Court after taking instructions from Douglas Muzanenhamo, an HIV/AIDS activist who was arrested on 19 February 2011 and charged with committing treason together with 44 other social justice, trade union and human rights activists including University of Zimbabwe lecturer and International Socialist Organisation leader Munyaradzi Gwisai.
Zimbabwean authorities claimed that the activists had plotted at a meeting to topple President Robert Mugabe from power using “Egyptianstyle” revolts.
Muzanenhamo, was arrested while attending a meeting to commemorate the death of an HIV/AIDS activist Navigator Mungoni. He was later freed together with 38 other activists by Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi.
While in detention, Muzanenhamo, who is HIV positive and has lived with the condition for the past 18 years was denied access to his ARV’s in contravention of Section 12 (1) of the Constitution.
Functionaries of the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) also perpetuated Muzanenhamo’s suffering when they denied him access to his medication during his detention in prison. He was also denied a balanced nutritional diet commensurate with the medical regime that he was following due to his medical condition.
Due to improper administration of ARV’s, Muzanenhamo’s health condition deteriorated rapidly and his CD4 count dropped from the normal 800 to 579. Had he stayed longer in the custody of police and prison functionaries, he would have suffered more damage to his health and well-being.
The conditions of his arrest and incarceration caused his health to deteriorate and endangered his life.