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Zimbabwe Legislator Accused of Infecting Journalist With HIV-AIDS

  • Peta Thornycroft

A Zimbabwe legislator was arrested Tuesday, accused of infecting a state journalist with HIV-AIDS.

Legislator Siyabonga Malandu Ncube turned himself in Tuesday at the Bulawayo Central Police Station, accompanied by his lawyer, Mlweli Ndlovu.

Earlier, reports emerged in Zimbabwe media that a journalist working for the pro-Zanu-PF Chronicle newspaper in second city Bulawayo reported to police that she had been infected with HIV-AIDS by the legislator, a member of the small Movement for Democratic Change party lead by Welshman Ncube.

Under Zimbabwean law, prosecutors would have to prove that the legislator knew he had the disease, if indeed he does have it.

If convicted Siyabonga Ncube could face 20 years in jail.

Several lawyers in Zimbabwe said although the HIV-AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe is mature, they could not recall any similar previous criminal case due to an allegedly infected person charging another with transmitting the virus.

Zimbabwe’s private health sector first recorded HIV-AIDS in late 1986 and, at the time, the former Zanu-PF government led by President Robert Mugabe blamed a white and Western conspiracy for the disease.

Many prominent Zimbabweans, including politicians, well-known musicians and famous sporting personalities, died from the complications from the virus in the early years.

The former Zanu-PF health ministry prevented production of a public health film about the causes of HIV-AIDS and how to prevent catching it. In those days the government harassed HIV-AIDS activists who tried to campaign for action from the health ministry. The private medical doctor who first noticed the virus in blood samples in Harare had to flee the country.

Eventually, the state media and public-health authorities launched educational campaigns about HIV-AIDS. Now donor organizations try to ensure those who need anti-retro-virals can get them for free.

The U.N. Program on HIV and Aids has revealed more than 168,000 Zimbabwean youths between the ages of 15 and 24 are living with the HIV-Aids virus.

In the past 10 years, with many donor-funded programs, Zimbabwe has been widely congratulated for a drop in its infection rate, from about 25 percent to about 15 percent among the sexually active population.

Of thefive million HIV-positive young people in the world, close to four million are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS.

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