December 9, 2019

Meet 83-Year-old Granny Given ARVs for 4 Years Yet She Had No HIV

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This is the health center where the elderly woman was given ARVs for over 4 years

The office of the Prosecutor General and RIB are baffled by a strange case in which an elderly woman was given HIV/Aids medication for over 4 years, yet she was actually not infected by the deadly virus.

To complicate the case further, a court on April 15 this year dismissed the charges against various medical officials from a health center in Ruhango district where the elderly granny was diagnosed and put on ARVs.

Back in 2013, Nirere Venantiya checked into Kizibere health center, in Mbaye sector in Ruhango district, southern province, as she was not feeling well. Tests were conducted and diagnosis found Nirere, 77years at the time, was HIV+.

Nirere, whose husband had died years earlier, together with her family were devastated.

Considering ARVs are easily and freely available here in Rwanda, Nirere was immediately put on ARVs.

However, in 2016, during the routine CD4 count analysis to determine Nirere’s viral load, according to court documents, a new test found the elderly woman did not have the HIV virus.

But then, shockingly, as detailed during the four month trial early this year, it was revealed by medical staff themselves from the same health center that Nirere was maintained on ARVs even after the new test had showed she was HIV-free.

The charges against the medical staff were brought by the Prosecutor General following investigation by RIB. Nirere’s family led by her son Habinshuti Bonavanture was also party to the case. It was after the case appeared in local media last year that RIB took it up.

The suspects in the Ruhango district Primary Court were Ernestine Kantengwa, director of Kizibere health center, Nyiramisago Francine who did the HIV test and Nyiragaju Vasita who administered the ARVs for all those years.

Habinshuti Bonavanture is one of the children of the 83 year-old Nirere, and he has been the public face of their mother’s long quest for justice

Prosecution presented evidence based on a diagnosis done by the General Government Laboratory which confirmed Nirere had no HIV virus. The family also had her tested from Kabgayi Hospital, which had same results.

In short, these new government and family test results were confirming those done by Kizibere health center in 2016. The question that has baffled Prosecution and the family is why did the health center maintain Nirere on ARVs.

The ARV treatment continued until 2017 when the family began a media campaign against the health center. In other words, Nirere took the ARVs from 2013 to 2017.

In court, prosecution accused the 3 medical staff of criminal negligence and deliberate professional errors for which they would have lost their medical documents, as well as go to jail.

Presiding Judge Bizimungu Teresphore ruled then that the charge sheet had been poorly prepared, that it did not show the suspects culpability, and acquitted all the three suspects.

The family did indicate immediately of intention to appeal. They are awaiting action from the office of Prosecutor General to move forward.

The victim Nirere now 83yrs is traumatized for carrying the HIV+ tag yet she was widowed and is very weak as a result of side effects the ARVs had on her, according her son Habinshuti. He has been the public face of the family since.

They are seeking a public statement to declare their mother is not HIV, as well as compensation from the health centre, which is under the district, and by consequence the health ministry.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence against the Kizibere health center staff, our mother has been denied justice for over two years. I think there is a much deeper scheme behind all this,” he told a local publication Ukwezi this Sunday.

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