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Probe launched into forced sterilisation of HIV+ women at state hospitals

The commission reported in February, on 48 women who claimed they were forced or coerced to undergo sterilisation after delivering babies in public health facilities in Gauteng and KZN several years ago.

A woman wears the Aids-ribbon on her headscarf at the Tygerberg Hospital where HIV-positive patients are treated. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday launched an investigation into allegations that women living with HIV were sterilised at state hospitals without their informed consent.

He told Parliament the allegations – contained in a report by the commission for gender equality – are strong enough to be investigated.

Mkhize said he has set up a task team under University of KwaZulu-Natal associate, Professor in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr Motshedisi Sebitloane, to interrogate the matter.

The commission reported in February, on 48 women who claimed they were forced or coerced to undergo sterilisation after delivering babies in public health facilities in Gauteng and KZN several years ago.

He briefed Parliament’s committees on health and women, youth and people with disabilities.

Mkhize said the commission for gender equality has come forward with the affidavits deposed by the women concerned. He also suggested that more complainants may come to the fore.

“The allegations are strong enough to be investigated. It should no longer be a matter of whether we believe it or not.”

He stressed there was no government policy to forcefully sterilise any woman for whatever reason, although some life-saving emergency medical procedures might leave a woman unable to bear children.

Mkhize said the allegations dated back many years and locating patient files was a problem, with some health care professionals having retired or died.

The affidavits of 48 women have now been given to the task team headed Sebitloane for further investigation - this will include identifying clinicians and health care workers involved, as well as clinical assessments. Mkhize could not say how long the probe would take.

He said some of the complainants gave their consent – but at issue is whether that consent was forced or not.

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