VANCOUVER - A man who knowingly spread the HIV virus to four women now complains the British Columbia government failed to consistently provide him with the medication needed to keep his virus under control.
Charles Mzite has launched a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal claiming his treatment regime was interrupted 36 times while he was at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.
Despite the man's complaint being filed a year and a half past the six-month deadline, tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski has agreed to hear the case, saying it raises important issues around a vulnerable person.
Mzite was convicted of aggravated sexual assaulted by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in March 2009, eight years after he moved to Canada from Zimbabwe.
His trial heard he had consensual sex with four women and either didn't tell them he was HIV positive or told them he didn't have HIV.
At least one of the women now has the virus.
Mzite's rights complaint claims the B.C. Public Safety Ministry and the correction centre where he was housed failed to properly provide him with antiretroviral drugs for his HIV treatment in the months he was awaiting trial.
After he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, Mzite was moved to a federal institution.
During his time in remand starting in September 2007, Mzite claims there were numerous interruptions in his treatment, despite protests from his doctor and lawyer that he was on a strict regime.
"In July 2008, the doctor noted that Mr. Mzite's viral load had increased," Tyshynski said in her ruling.
The tribunal heard that the doctor wrote to the correctional centre and explained the necessity of providing Mzite with uninterrupted medication and the potential harmful consequences of not doing so.
"I would like to state clearly that it is of utmost importance that this gentleman not miss any of his medications on a daily basis," the doctor said in the letter. "The result of doing so would simply lead to development of resistance to therapy, potential deterioration of his immune system and development of opportunistic infections."
The tribunal heard Mzite filed his complaint late because he was afraid of retaliation, he was dependent on the prison putting him in a vulnerable position and he couldn't afford to jeopardize his access to health care.
"The issues raised in this complaint have broad and significant ramifications for the health of Canadians in general and the dignity of health of prisoners specifically," Mzite's submission to the tribunal said.
The lawyer for the B.C. government argued the complaints date back to 2007 and it would be difficult to go back that far. The government also said the medical health service provider at the jail was changed in April last year, further complicating the problem.
But Tyshynski overruled the argument.
"Mr Mzite's complaint raises a novel issue by a uniquely-positioned and very vulnerable individual, that is, a prisoner who is HIV positive and reliant on (jail) staff for medication," she wrote in her ruling.
"I agree that this complaint offers the tribunal a rare opportunity to address this novel and serious allegation."