Nairobi, 11 August 2011 (IRIN) - A year ago, 35-year-old Daniel Ng’etich was arrested and jailed in his home town of Kapsabet, in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province – his crime was failing to adhere to his tuberculosis medication [ http://www.plusnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=90270].
Rights activists were up in arms about what they saw as a human rights violation, but government officials defended the move in the interests of public health.
Eventually, Ng’etich was released after pressure from rights groups before his eight-month term was up. He spoke to IRIN about his experience:
“One day in April 2009, I decided to go to the hospital to get a check-up because I had been feeling unwell for close to three months. When I arrived at the hospital, I was taken to the laboratory because I had told the doctors I had some pain in my chest and I was also coughing. I felt very weak too.
“I was told I had tuberculosis and they gave me medicine. I took it for just three months but when I felt I had become well, I stopped. It is not that I didn’t want to take the medicine or because I didn’t want to get treated – I was never told for how long I should take the medicine.
“After I stopped taking my TB medicine, I didn’t know I was being hunted and I was a criminal. They [the police] just came to the church and arrested me and some other friends, saying I had refused to take medicine yet I had a very infectious disease.
“I pleaded that I didn’t know what I had done was wrong. They took me to court anyway and the magistrate told us we would be in custody until we finished taking our medicine or until the doctors were convinced that we were now ready to take the drugs. The magistrate sentenced each of us to eight months in jail.
“My experience in jail was worse than the feeling I had with the disease. In jail, you can easily get re-infected even if you are being treated because many people there have tuberculosis just like me. Some were coughing more than I did. I wondered, if these people wanted so badly for me to finish my treatment, why couldn’t they take me to the hospital and lock me in there?
“Now I am taking my medicine and I’m almost finished. I think when you go to the hospital they should tell you: ‘Don’t stop taking your drugs until we tell you to’. In the village, many people are ignorant. The only thing they know is the colour of the drug, nothing more. For a patient, the doctor knows everything – just like God.
“Out here, people still make fun of me and say I am like a child who must be caned to finish his medicine. I feel stigmatized because people think you are very dangerous. Even though I feel bad about being jailed, I know my story made people know how serious tuberculosis is.”
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