A Blantyre-based woman has taken to court medical practitioner Dr Albert Mkandawire, currently working as Nkhata Bay district health officer (DHO), to stop him from allegedly publicising her HIV status.
According to court documents we have seen under Civil Case Number 803, the woman applied, under Section 5/6 of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, for an interim protection from the Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre against Dr Mkandawire.
The woman, whose identity we have withheld for ethical reasons, applied for the court’s relief to prohibit Dr Mkandawire from publicising her HIV status, physically and verbally abusing her, interfering with her friends on social media and causing or encouraging another person from engaging in similar acts.
Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust (Wlsa-Malawi) filed the application on behalf of the woman on March 9 2016.
In its March 14 2016 ruling, the court ordered that starting from March 9 until it directs otherwise, Dr Mkandawire “shall not engage” in publicising her sero-status, interfering with her friends on social media and preventing her from going to work comfortably.
Prior to the court application, the Medical Council of Malawi (MCM) conducted an investigation on October 20 2015 and is expected to testify when the matter comes up for hearing, according to Wlsa.
The findings of the probe—titled ‘An Investigation Report on Allegations that Dr Mkandawire Violated [name withheld] Right to Privacy and Confidentiality by Revealing her Medical Conditions to Friends and Partners without her Consent’—was submitted to the council’s registrar on November 30 2015.
The purpose of the investigation was to establish whether allegations that Dr Mkandawire was involved in unprofessional conduct against the woman resulting in psychological trauma were valid and also to establish whether the medical doctor violated the doctor-patient relationship.
The alleged genesis
According to the MCM report we have seen, the woman, upon a friend’s recommendation, met Dr Mkandawire at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre for medical assistance.
During the consultations, Dr Mkandawire suspected her of having tuberculosis (TB) on top of the existing HIV status, alleges the report.
The doctor then allegedly inquired if the woman had a boyfriend to relieve her of stress to which she replied that her husband died in 2010.
Later, according to MCM, the two started a romantic relationship for two years until Dr Mkandawire was posted to Nkhata Bay District Hospital, where he is up to now as DHO.
The report alleges that when the woman visited the doctor after some time, she claims to have discovered that he had a new girlfriend, which led to a quarrel between the woman and the doctor.
The woman ended up going to Nkhata Bay Police Station officer-in-charge who advised her to return to her base in Blantyre, according to the MCM report.
In the report, the woman alleges that after some time, she received a phone call from Dr Mkandawire’s alleged girlfriend mocking her about her HIV status.
Later, after Dr Mkandawire had left for Egypt in November 2015, the two started sending each other abusive short message service (SMS) texts, says the report.
The woman accuses Dr. Mkandawire of revealing what the MCM report calls “too much information” to the new girlfriend.
However, in response, Dr Mkandawire told the investigative team that he never “exposed” the woman’s HIV status and abusing her.
Hearing of the case in court is expected to start this week, according to Wlsa.