African prostitute

Malawi sex workers to get damages over forced HIV tests

A MALAWI court has ruled that 11 prostitutes who were forced to take HIV tests by police six years ago will be awarded damages, a court official said on Thursday citing a judgment.

The sex workers were rounded up in 2009 in the southern city of Mwanza, hauled to a government hospital for HIV testing without their consent and the results were disclosed in an open court.

High Court judge Dorothy Kamanga ordered that the prostitutes a�?should be compensated and file for compensation within 14 days,a�? according to the ruling handed down on Wednesday and read out to AFP by a court clerk.

The judge said actions by both police and health workers in subjecting the women to forced HIV tests, and disclosing their status without their consent, were a�?irrational, unjust, unfair and unreasonable.a�?

a�?The authorities took advantage of the women being in police custody to force them to undergo the tests,a�? she said.

The sex workers, who all tested positive for HIV and were set free after paying a fine equivalent to $7, sued the government for unfair action and violation of their privacy.

Chrispine Sibande, a lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, hailed the ruling as a�?a victory for sex workers who are usually abused every day.a�?

The group will have to launch a separate court action to claim the damages.

Health experts estimate that there are around 20A�000 sex workers in Malawi.

Up to 10 percent of Malawia��s 15 million people are HIV-positive and 500A�000 of them are receiving free life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. a�� Sowetan.