By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Josephine Agbonkhese
LAGOS—THE human rights community has condemned the alleged deliberate infection of Nigerian women with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, by a 67-year-old Irish national, Mr. James Turner, calling for his immediate prosecution, with one saying Turner needs psychological help and should be handed over to a psychiatrist.
The activists also urged the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to step in and ensure that if proved beyond reasonable doubt, the case be handled according to the country’s Sexual Offences Act.
According to them, there is also the need for police to ensure that all his victims are identified.
Reacting to the development, President, African Women Empowerment Guild, AWEG, Dr. Nosa Aladeselu, said: “I want to use this medium to call for the immediate prosecution of Turner because no amount of dollars can wipe away the havoc he has caused these girls and their families.
“We do not know exactly what would have predisposed a girl to agree to have unprotected sex with a man like Turner. This should, however, serve as deterrent to any girl who indulges in unprotected sex, whether or not it is for monetary benefit.”
‘More questions than answers’
Also speaking, Head of Operation, Positive Action for Treatment Access, PATA, Mrs. Temitayo Oyedemi, who described it as a human right case, also observed the need for NHRC to step in.
According to her, “there is something not right about the stories. They have to be able to prove a lot of things. The girl in question was she faithful? If she was not faithful, that is another problem.
“There are so many things that she said. She said she went to the hospital and the doctor disclosed the man’s status to her. No doctor will do so and it is unethical for a doctor to do that even if it is your partner.
“It is unethical for a doctor to give you anyone’s result because it is confidential. I am interested in the story but I would want to have a one-on-one interview with the lady. There are questions she has to answer. There are questions I would love to ask both of them,” she added.
‘This deliberate wickedness is rampant’
In the view of Executive Director, Project Alert, Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, “Turner is not alone in this wicked act. A lot of Nigerian men and women are deliberately infecting not only their spouses, but also other people with the virus.
“Years ago, I walked into a situation in one big private hospital in Lagos, where a pregnant woman had just been told she was HIV positive after three children.
“Just like in the case of this lady, she had been collecting sealed drugs for the husband for months without asking what the drugs were meant for. The husband was diabetic and she thought they were meant for that.
“It is wickedness and attempted murder because while the man is taking his drugs and trying to keep his viral load down and by so doing stay alive, the woman is not taking any drugs and her viral load would be increasing with the risk of developing full blown AIDS and dying.”
Need for awareness campaign
On her part, Executive Director, Women’s Health & Rights Project, Bose Ironsi, said: “I have worked with commercial sex workers and I will tell you there is a high level of ignorance about sexual risks and safer sex practices. A man who is aware he has gonorrhoea can go to sex workers and say he will pay higher for unprotected sex.
“While a few will disagree, some will calculate and say ‘Of course, I can use N2,000 to treat myself if I contract any infection’ and would agree.”
Calling on women to cultivate safe sex practices, Ironsi said Turner should be convicted if found guilty of the offence, to serve as a deterrent to others.
She said: “But I want to also state that protection, during sexual intercourse, is the responsibility of both the man and woman involved. The fact that one is a white man does not make him HIV-free.”
Restrict Turner’s movement—WARDC
On her part, Founder, Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said: “Turner is a threat to the society and I recommend that his movement be restricted by the security agencies.
“By virtue of the Lagos State law protecting People Living with HIV/AIDs, PLWA, it is a criminal offence to intentionally infect anyone with HIV, and also an offence to attempt to spread the virus, when one knows he or she is infected.
“Section 35 of the same law allows for the police to restrict the movement of anyone caught in the act, especially when such a person has admitted to it.
“Turner has admitted to sleeping with six other women and for that, his movement should be restricted without delay.”
‘…he needs psychiatrist help’
The Executive Director, ACTS Generation, Leila St. Matthew-Daniel, said Turner needs psychological help and should be handed over to a psychiatrist.
According to Matthew-Daniel, “from every indication, he sees himself as a victim who has been unfairly treated. Hence he decided to spread the virus to other girls.
“But this deliberate act gives him away as someone who is mentally sick because only such people would find themselves in such situations and determine to let others suffer same, without realising that they are indirectly sentencing other men and the society.
“Turner needs psychological help for the benefit of the society.”