Apparatus flaw causes AIDS infection, court rules in favor of patient [Archives:2007/1070/Local News]

July 23 2007

ADEN, July 21 ) Although official statistics do not acknowledge Yemen as one of the countries with a high AIDS infection rate (only .14 percent), faulty apparatus and ignorance about the disease continue to dominate Yemeni hospitals and society.

The Ministry of Health and Population is considering appealing for the second time against a verdict ruled in favor of Abdul-Aleem Omar Mohammad. Mohammad sued the Ministry of Health in 2003, after he contracted AIDS while receiving medical treatment at Al-Jumhouri government hospital. He contracted the disease during a blood transfusion that he needed after a car accident, which required amputation of his right leg.

Mohammad discovered that he was HIV positive when he travelled to Egypt for cosmetic surgery on his amputated leg. When the hospital in Egypt realized he was infected with AIDS they immediately sent him back to Yemen. He was admitted to Al-Jumhouri Hospital again where he has been staying for the last four years.

Mohammad decided to sue the government and the trial has been ongoing since May 2003.

On year ago, the preliminary court ruled in favor of Mohammad. However, the ministry is considering appealing the ruling, after already losing one previous attempt.

HIV-positive before of after?

Dr. Al-Khadher Nasir Lsour, director of the Public Health and Population Office in Aden defended the ministry's rejection of the verdict, claiming, “it missed out many points that should have been taken into consideration.” The hospital's defense attorney claimed that the hospital nor the government can be held responsible for Mohammad's illness as he could have been HIV positive before the accident. He explained further that hospital procedures do not require taking an HIV test before treating a patient, especially in an emergency such as Mohammad's case.

“Let us not forget that there is no law that obliges the patients to take an HIV test before treatment,” the head of the legal department for the Ministry of Health in Aden stated. However, Mohammad's lawyer Mohammd Ali considered the excuses presented by the defendant's attorney as “baseless and hiding mischievous intentions.” In fact, Ali views the latest verdict issued last Wednesday by the court of appeals in the amount of 50 million Yemeni riyals as “not living up to the mental and physical damage my client was subjected to due to the hospital's negligence.”

The new verdict agreed with that of the preliminary court in which lab technician Ahmed Hussein was accused of transfusing AIDS-infected blood to Mohammad. Hussein was sentenced to one year in prison while the hospital is obliged to pay four million Yemeni riyals as compensation for the expenses Mohammad incurred for his travel to Egypt as well as to ensure his treatment and provide him with a special sterilized room and medical staff at Al-Jumhouri hospital.

What really happened

According to the case profile, Abdul Aleem Omar Mohammad, a thirty year old man from Al-Dhale' governorate got into a car accident four years ago and was rushed to Al-Jumhouri hospital where more than 15 pounds of blood were transferred to his body from the hospital's blood bank. Apparently the HIV testing apparatus at the hospital was not functioning properly, resulting in the mistake of giving Mohammad HIV infected blood. Because he needed cosmetic surgery, Mohammad was taken to Egypt where he discovered his disease. The preliminary court in Saira, Aden ruled in his favor.

The court identified that Mohammad was infected while being treated at the hospital. The court based their ruling on evidence from earlier investigations carried out by the Ministry of Public Health in Aden, which concluded that Mohammad's infection was caused by a mistake in the test results of the blood used in his treatment. The mistake was proven to be the result of a flaw in the apparatus used for testing blood. However, the ministry appealed the preliminary court ruling and was disappointed yet again by the court of appeals, who ruled in Mohammad's favor.

The final verdict from the court of appeals included a constant salary to be paid by the Ministry of Health to Mohammad's family, due to the fact that he was their main source of income but now can no longer work. The court also demanded the ministry to purchase adequate HIV and Hepatitis B testing apparatus, which is to be disseminated to various hospitals throughout the area in order to prevent a similar mistake from happening in the future. In addition, 50 million Yemeni riyals (about $251,256) are to be paid to Mohammad as compensation for damages.

More AIDS cases in Yemen

The monitoring and research unit of the AIDS and STD combating program reported that 61 new AIDS cases were recorded in the first four months of this year, increasing the total number of HIV infected people in Yemen to 2,075. The first AIDS-related case was discovered in 1987.

Dr. Abdul Hamid Al-Suhaibi, head of the research unit stated that the most common age group infected with the disease is between 15 and 49 years old. The cases within this age group constitute more than 50 percent of the total recorded cases. Around 50 percent of the patients are Yemeni, while 60 percent of the infected are men. According to Dr. Al-Suhaibi 70 percent of the cases are still in the infectious phase while the remaining 26 percent are in the final stages of the disease. He also added that at least 35 percent of the cases are caused through sexual intercourse. According to this unit, Yemen has a low infection rate of 0.14 percent.