Home South African State hospitals forcing HIV + women to be sterilised – report

State hospitals forcing HIV + women to be sterilised – report

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Dozens of the women have been sterilised without consent.

Johannesburg – Dozens of HIV-positive women have been sterilised without consent or

after being pressured to agree just before giving birth,

sometimes being told while in pain on their way to the operating

theatre, a report published on Monday found.

After investigating 48 specific cases, the Commission for

Gender Equality (CGE) found that doctors in several hospitals

had sterilised women about to have caesarean sections after

telling them that carriers of HIV – which causes AIDS if not

treated – should not have children or that they would die if

they had another baby.

“In some instances, complainants were given the forms while

they were in extreme labour pain and were told that they would

not receive medical assistance until they had signed the

forms,” said the report, which concluded a five-year

investigation into 48 cases brought to the CGE by two civil

rights groups.

CGE chair Tamara Mathebula said it was “not clear how

widespread this problem is in South Africa, but we are hoping

that the recommendations of our investigation will open the lid

to matters that are not yet known in full”.

Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize requested an urgent meeting

with Mathebula to discuss the report, his department said.

The report cited the testimonies of several mothers.

One said she had been refused help with the birth if she did

not sign the consent form.

Another said she had not known that the consent form she was

shown on the way to theatre had included agreeing to

sterilisation.

A third said she had signed a form while in pain on the way

to have a caesarean section, and had not known what it meant to

be sterilised, only finding out later from a private

gynaecologist that she could no longer conceive.

“The Complainants could not reasonably be said to have

consented to the procedure,” the report said. “They were

therefore forced and/or coerced into being sterilised.”

The World Health Organisation says HIV-positive women have a

15–45% chance of infecting their baby during pregnancy,

childbirth or breastfeeding – but that this can be reduced to

below 5% with interventions including antiretroviral drugs. 

Reuters