Man on an emotional rollercoaster after being wrongly diagnosed with HIV and placed on ARVs

Wednesday, June 12, 2024 - A 50-year-old South African man identified as Solomon Mthana has revealed that he suffered mental and emotional trauma after being misdiagnosed with HIV and then placed on ARVs.

According to him, being told later that he's negative has been an emotional and psychological roller-coaster ride for him and his family.

It was gathered that his ordeal began after visiting Settlers Hospital in Makhanda in March to have a lump in his head removed through surgery. Doctors took blood samples for testing at the laboratory to understand the underlying causes of the lump.

They also insisted on doing a rapid response HIV Test which gives instant results. The Test found Mthana was HIV-positive, which led to him getting counselling before he was put on ARV treatment.

The private security guard told Sowetan that the drugs took a toll on his body and that he suffered mental and emotional trauma because of the misdiagnosis.   He said;

“I was struggling to get used to the drugs. The first two weeks were the worst. I was vomiting constantly, had nausea and my body was often abnormally tired.”

However, negative blood Test results from the lab only came back in April after Mthana had been taking the treatment for over a month and learning to live with a non-existing virus in his body.  He said he suspected something was off the day the doctors broke the news to him. Nurses, he said, were unusually too nice to him.  He further revealed that they offered him counselling on the spot.

Mthana said;

“Around four nurses received me when I arrived at the facility and were too polite. I have never seen them like that. They even offered me tea. There was also a therapist. By that time, I knew there was something suspicious. Then the doctor came and broke this news.

“I had disclosed to my partner and some of the members of my family about my HIV-positive status which I was then told later it never existed. It’s been an emotional and psychological roller-coaster ride for me and my family. We have been taken to hell and back.”

The Eastern Cape health department has blamed the rapid response Test kit for the false results and also apologised to Mthana. Department spokesperson Mkhululi Ndamase said the Test kits which give immediate results are not 100% accurate.

He said;

“It is important to note that HIV test kits have a 99% accuracy rate, meaning there is a possibility of false positive cases. The Test was done in line with protocol.

“We can confirm that the patient is known to Settlers Hospital. The patient was called, and redress was done and accepted after the clinical processes taken were explained to him.”

Ndamase said that no one was to blame for the incident and that there won’t be any consequential action taken against anyone at the hospital.

While Mthana is worried that taking and stopping the drugs may lead to long-term effects, former president and CEO of the SA Medical Research Council, Prof Glenda Gray, said he need not worry. 

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