Group Says HIV-Positive Pregnant Women, Babies Face Discrimination in
Associated Press (07.15.05)
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued Friday said HIV-positive
pregnant women and mothers face discrimination in Russia, and their
children are often segregated for no medical reason.
Government data show Russia with some 300,000 HIV-positive people,
although many experts put the number at closer to 1 million. A recent
study by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in
Washington estimated the number of Russian AIDS deaths at 13,000,
compared to the official figure of 4,800.
Official data show more than 9,500 HIV-positive women had given birth by
February 2005. Of them, 10-20 percent had abandoned their babies, HRW
said. Many of those children end up in segregated orphanages or hospital
wards for HIV-positive children because of fear of contact with them.
Viktor Kreidich, chief doctor of a Moscow orphanage for HIV-positive
children, said they were segregated for their own protection, "not
because these children are dangerous for society," but the reverse.
HRW said in spite of international and national regulations to protect
the children of HIV-positive women, "the Russian government is failing
lamentably in its obligation to implement these standards." And although
Russia has one of the world's most rapidly growing HIV infection rates,
the government has done little to address the crisis.
The report said the Russian public, though highly educated, is
practically as ignorant of HIV and how it is spread as it was 10 years
ago when AIDS was nearly unknown in Russia. The report called on
President Vladimir Putin and his government to help reduce HIV/AIDS
stigma and increase public awareness. It recommended that the Russian
Health Ministry end the segregation of babies abandoned by HIV-positive
mothers and better train medical and child care workers to work with
HIV-positive women and children.