Mrs Kgakgamatso Sekgabetlela, wrongly diagnosed HIV positive, has been awarded P150,000 compensation by the High Court for ‘pain and suffering to be paid by the Attorney General and the Ministry of Health.
She was wrongly diagnosed to have HIV in June 2003 at the South East District Council in the Taung clinic in Gaborone.
Passing judgment, Justice Key Dingake ordered that “the defendants are to pay damages for pain and suffering to the plaintiff in the amount of P150,000”.
Mrs. Sekgabetlela had sued the defendants after she visited the Taung Clinic in Ramotswa in June 2003 when she was pregnant.
In pursuit of the ante natal medical checkups, she consented to a n HIV test at the clinic. The test is done in the interest of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the unborn child.
The Taung clinic informed Mrs. Sekgabetlela that her results indicated that she was HIV positive. After informing her of the results, she was advised to encourage his husband, Ramontsho, to go for HIV testing. His results differed with those of his wife.
Shocked and surprised by the results, Mrs. Sekgabetlela went back to the Taung clinic to request a second which she was denied. She then enrolled in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) program and the isanozoid preventive therapy for the prevention of tuberculosis infection.
After submitting for CD4 count around February 2005, she enrolled for the Netefatso study for discordant couples.
As a result of enrolling in the study, she was entitled to testing for HIV and her results proved the previous results wrong as she came out negative. Subsequent additional HIV tests confirmed that indeed she was HIV negative.
In her testimony, Mrs. Sekgabetlela said as a result of the erroneous HIV assessment, she was alienated from her husband so that “there was no marriage, just a certificate that remained”.
She said the erroneous result subjected her to beating from her husband who believed that she was cheating on him.
As a result, sexual relationships between the couple also stopped and she could not breastfeed. She contemplated abortion and suicide. The emotional downfall that she underwent led her to seeking for counselling from her siblings and a priest.
Announcing judgment, Justice Key Dingake stated that in arriving at the appropriate computation of damages, he took into account “the duration of the pain and suffering which I have found lasted for two years, the intensity thereof as exemplified by suicidal thoughts, thoughts to commit abortion and nightmares”.
He also stated that he is not inclined to order costs at a punitive scale because the defendants saved the court’s time by not contesting liability.
He then ordered the defendants to pay damages amounting to P150 000.00 to Mrs. Sekgabetlela as well as pay costs she accrued when she engaged a South African clinical psychologist.