Carefree Nurse Frustrates Health
Church Information Service
March 24, 2003
Posted to the web March 25, 2003
Botswana health officials have been
testing 170 primary school children for HIV, after a nurse on
February 20, threw the country's health delivery system into
despair, by using the same syringe to immunise the children
against childhood diseases.
The pupils are from Estha 6 Primary
School, a village school 230 kilometres north of Maun town in
north-western Botswana. Fifty-four of them are in Standard
one, while the remaining116 are Standard seven pupils.
Blood samples have been sent to forensic
laboratories in the health department in the capital, Gaborone,
to find out whether the children have been infected with HIV.
In a joint statement on March 5, Mathias
Chakalisa and Eric Malole, permanent secretaries for health
and local government ministries respectively, said that the
male nurse (whose identity has been withheld) apparently
refused to listen to school teachers who had asked him to stop
The statement did not, however, say what
action was going to be taken against him.
"The needle used was not even
sterilised before re-use, a principle that is normally applied
in those areas where there is a shortage of needles.
We must emphasise that re-using needles
is against our national health policy," said part of the
It took more than five days before
health officials became aware of what had transpired.
"It was already too late to provide
prophylaxis," they said, adding, "The matter has
been discussed with the parents and they have given their
consent for HIV testing." Government experts are also
counselling parents and the children involved.
Health regulations call for the use of
one needle per person when injections are carried out, in
order to minimise the risk of infection.
This has been government policy for
several years since the advent of HIV in the country.
Michael Badisa, Principal Education
Officer in Maun, said 1,150 children attended Estha 6 Primary.
"One of the problems now is that it is known that
Standard Seven pupils are sexually active. This could be a
problem for the future," he said.
Botswana currently is one of the
countries in southern Africa with the highest incidence of
Latest statistics from UNAIDS indicates
that 39 percent of the population's 16 to 49 age group are HIV