An HIV positive Russian woman obtains permission to apply to look after her brother
It took Svetlana Izambaeva, head of the healthcare foundation Mother and Child, nine months to get permission to become guardian of her younger brother. In February 2009, their mother died. At a family meeting her three adult children agreed that Svetlana would care for 10-year old Sasha. The oldest son of the family has health issues and lives in a care home, the second sister does not have her own home, while Svetlana is married and moved from Chuvashia to Tatarstan, where the family have their own apartment in the Republic’s capital, and she has a job and two of her own children. However, the childcare services of Chuvashia refused to allow Sasha to go and live with her, because she is HIV positive. Officials based this decision on Governmental Decree No. 542 of 1 May 1996, which states that no citizen who is under medical care may become a foster parent or guardian of a child. Svetlana’s case was taken up by the inter-regional human rights organisation Agora.
Lawyers said that the decision of the foster care services amounted to discrimination, since HIV is not transmitted to others in everyday conditions. This was confirmed at Svetlana’s request by the head of the Federal AIDS Centre V Pokrovsky. Agora’s lawyer Ilnur Sharapov also said that a government decree could not overturn someone’s fundamental rights. Ms Izambaeva had to go through several legal instances, but eventually on 11 January 2010 the Supreme Court of Tatarstan ruled in her favour, lifted the ban imposed and sent the case back to court. On 25 January the local district court ruled as unlawful the refusal to allow her to become the brother’s guardian on the grounds that she is HIV positive. The court ordered that the guardianship documents be made ready within 15 days. During this period the boy was in foster care and at a children’s home, where, according to the lawyers, he was forbidden to use his telephone and MP3 player, and beaten. The prosecutor ordered that this be investigated. This is not the only such case. Apparently many people who are HIV positive are unable to adopt or become guardians of children, but most do not fight the decision because they do not want their HIV status to be revealed, fearing discrimination. An NGO has submitted a proposal to the Duma to remove the restrictions against fostering and caring for children for HIV positive people. It has been alleged that when the ban was introduced, it was not known that HIV is not easily transmitted, and that HIV positive people can live a long and active life. Now the situation has changed, and the law also needs to change.