AIDS activist sues prisons

In a landmark case an AIDS activist and his lawyer are taking a case to court to force prison authorities to make sure that inmates with HIV receive their medication.

Douglas Muzanenhamo said when he was jailed last year he was denied his antiretroviral treatment for 3 weeks, and nearly died. He also said that because he demanded his drugs, he was put into solitary confinement.

Muzanenhamo has been HIV positive for 18 years.

He was jailed after police arrested bystanders at a lecture on the Arab Spring, but was freed without charge after 3 weeks. He said that when he was arrested he wasn’t allowed to call his family and ask them to bring his medication to the jail. Lawyers had to intervene and his medication was brought to the jail two days later. But police held on to the drugs and wouldn’t give them to him at the prescribed time. Police even took his medication away and provided a prison issue tablet that Muzanenhamo was not familiar with.

Muzanenhamo also said the conditions he was kept in were very poor. When not taking their medication people with HIV are more susceptible to infections and cleanliness, hygiene and a good diet are vitally important. But in jail Muzananhamo said he was made to walk barefoot through "human excreta and dried blood all over the place."

Lawyers said that their clients plight, and that of many thousands of prisoners, was a cruel and inhuman denial of a basic constitutional right to life.

The lawsuit cites as respondents police and prison commanders, government ministers and the attorney general.

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