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South Africa: HIV-Positive Women Sue for Forced Sterilization

April 30, 2014

This article was reported by the Independent Online.

South Africa's Independent Online reported that more than 12 HIV-positive women in Durban, South Africa, are suing the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health for performing sterilizations on them without their consent. The women complained of being "tricked" or forced into sterilization and only realized it when they later discovered why they were unable to conceive another child.

Health Spokesperson Desmond Motha refuted the accusations. He denied any intentions or incentive among KZN doctors to sterilize HIV-positive women or to coerce them to agree to sterilization. Motha maintained that no such policy ever existed in the Department of Health, and the department's legal division had no record of any claim being brought against it concerning sterilization.

Motha presented the health department's requirements before a doctor can perform sterilization, which included: the patient's informed consent; confirmation from a doctor of the woman's candidacy for the procedure; provision of patient counseling regarding the benefits and disadvantages; and patient understanding of the procedure's permanence. The healthcare provider must request informed consent in a language the woman understands and at least one other health worker must witness.

The women allege that the doctors involved did not follow these requirements and they are seeking legal action with the assistance of Her Right Initiative, a social impact organization that supports women's sexual and reproductive rights. Recently, a Gauteng woman won a similar case against that province's health department and was awarded approximately R500,000.

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