A faulty HIV test has turned a young Kerala couple's world upside down. Not only were Prajeesh and Sejina, who were expecting their first child, ostracised by the hospital staff and their village, but they also lost their jobs. They have now sought action against the hospital for the goof-up.
They have petitioned the chief minister, the Kerala State Women's Commsission and the state human rights commission for punitive measures against the Malabar Medical College near Atholi for not following the mandatory guidelines while conducting the HIV test. The hospital, however, maintains that it followed the required procedures.
Sejina, a resident of Koomully village, began bleeding while she was six weeks into her pregancy and on May 30, she and her husband reached the Malabar Medical College in Kozhikode district.
Around 3 pm, doctors advised that a Dilation and Curettage (D&C) be conducted on 25-year-old Sejina, Prajeesh told IANS. A D&C, which involves scraping the uterine lining, usually leads to an abortion in pregnant women, as happened in Sejina's case.
But Prajeesh was shocked when he was told his wife was found to be HIV positive.
Soon he was also asked to go for a blood test but was found HIV negative.
"But the doctor called my sister and told her about my wife. The news spread like wildfire and we were treated as outcasts in the hospital. Sejina was lying in the operation theatre and she herself had to change her dress, get on to a wheelchair and come out. This is injustice," Prajeesh fumed.
"I then got a reference letter to the Kozhikode Government Medical College stating that my wife is HIV positive. No one helped us and we managed to get an ambulance and reached the medical college by around 7 pm.
"After a series of tests, we were told the next day that my wife was not HIV positive. She was discharged the next day," said Prajeesh.
But when the couple reached her Koomully home, the news had spread that Sejina was the first HIV positive person in the village. And then began the social ostracism with no one, except close relatives, willing to meet them.
"For two days Sejina and I thought we had no other go but to commit suicide because there's no point in living as social outcasts. It's now going to be two weeks and still only our close relatives visit us. This would not have happened had the hospital followed the prescribed procedures on conducting an HIV test. This is criminal negligence," Prajeesh said.
Prajeesh just recently returned from Oman to a new job closer home. But now the 28-year-old and his wife, who worked in a private firm, have lost their jobs.
"I joined a courier firm three weeks back and I have lost my job. Sejina has also lost her job and we decided the only way for us is to approach the media," said a distressed Prajeesh.
Rebecca, the doctor who heads the Integrated Counselling and Training Centre of the Kerala State Aids Control Society, said there are basic guidelines laid down by National AIDS Control Organisation when doing a HIV test.
"The first thing is a pre-test counselling followed by a consent form that has to be filled up and then the test takes place. Once the result is positive then two more tests using different principles are done and only then is the result is confirmed. Confidentiality has certainly to be maintained," said Rebecca.
The Malabar Medical College maintains that it had followed the guidelines.
"We did the test thrice using the Card Test principle and we have the records that on all three occasions it was positive. The doctor, since she is not a Malayali, asked for a relative of Sejina who knew English and was informed. Since we do not have the facility for conducting an Elisa test, she was referred to the Kozhikode Medical College," Suneesh, a hospital spokesperson, told IANS.