September 17, 2012
Lawyers for an AIDS awareness campaigner in Zimbabwe are taking a landmark test case to Zimbabwe's Supreme Court. The case concerns forcing police and prison authorities to ensure that people with HIV get their life prolonging medication. The plaintiff was arrested for being one of the bystanders at a lecture in Harare that police claimed was in preparation for a revolt in the country. He was later freed without being charged. The plaintiff, who has been HIV-infected for 18 years, said in court papers that he was denied appropriate antiretroviral treatment in jail for three weeks in 2011, and his condition worsened. Also, he had been kept in a filthy crowded cell, held in solitary confinement for demanding his medications, and on the day of his arrest, Harare police did not allow him to call his family to bring medication he took twice a day on an exact timetable. After the lawyers intervened, his family was able to bring the medication two days later, but it was kept by the police and he was given a prison issue tablet once a day. In the court papers, he states that he is dependent on the medications and a healthy diet to stay alive. No official figures are currently available on deaths in Zimbabwe's prisons and police cells. The lawyers claim that his plight and that of thousands of other prison inmates with medical conditions who do not get treatment is a denial of the basic constitutional right to life, especially for prisoners who have not been found guilty of any crime.