Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has ordered a high-level probe after a 20-year-old woman apparently died of shock after coming to know that she has been diagnosed as an HIV+ case. Tests later showed she was not HIV+ as earlier diagnosed.
The woman, who had got married just eight months back, slipped into a coma after overhearing a conversation about her “condition”. She had been rushed to a private hospital in Rohru to treat her ectopic pregnancy and was then referred to a hospital in Shimla for surgery. At the Shimla hospital, seeing the HIV+ report, the doctors asked her husband too to get tested. She overheard this conversation and slipped into a coma.
A new round of tests conducted at Shimla’s Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) had ruled out HIV. But by then the woman’s condition was quite critical and she died at the IGMC Hospital here on Tuesday. “It was too late. She could not bear the shock and stigma of HIV,“ said brother Des Raj, who is employed at IGMC in Shimla.
Here is what NACO says on confidentiality of HIV tests
“The confidentiality of HIV test results should be maintained for both positive and negative reports. This is essential for ensuring respect for the privacy and rights of an individual and to protect them from victimisation, discrimination, and stigmatisation. The results should be handed over directly to the person concerned, to a person authorised by the patient, or in a sealed envelope to the clinician requesting for the test. No results, under any circumstances, should be communicated via telephone, fax, email, etc. The records must be kept secure.”
While the chief minister clarified that the cause of death as not yet clear, he said strict action will be taken against the private clinic “for preparing a wrong HIV positive report”. He also promised compensation to the woman’s family as per rules. He was responding to Congress MLA from Rohru, Mohan Lal Brakta, who raised the matter in the Assembly.
Des Raj said his sister developed some complications and was rushed to Sanjeevani Hospital in Rohru. However, doctors there informed that she needed immediate surgery, which could not be done in Rohru. While referring her the Kamla Nehru Hospital in Shimla, they also handed over reports of her tests which included one showing her as HIV+, the brother said.
At the Shimla hospital her husband was told to undergo tests as his wife’s test reports said she was HIV+. Des Raj alleged that his sister overheard this conversation and slipped slipped into coma. The KNH doctors later referred her to IGMC hospital’s medicine department.
Two days later, tests conducted by the ICTC centre of National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) found that she was not HIV+ as originally diagnosed.
Dr Chinmoy Deb Barma of Sanjeevani Hospital accepted that he did mention the HIV status in the report sent to KNH, Shimla. “I never disclosed this to the patient or her attendants. This leaked at Kamla Nehru Hospital. Secondly, whatever I had observed in my preliminary examinations relating to HIV status, is subject to confirmation at the ICTC lab of NACO. I have not done any wrong and ready for any inquiry.”
Sharma is a Shimla based journalist and a former correspondent with The Indian Express