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10.21.10 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Chilean-based HIV/AIDS service organization Vivo Positivo released new human rights research finding that abuse against HIV-positive women in Chile by medical professionals is widespread, including sterilizing them without their knowledge or consent during other procedures. According to Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities, the Chilean government has failed to protect the human rights of women living with HIV in the country by fostering an environment in which healthcare workers willfully discriminate against them.
“When the government allows medical professionals to discriminate against female patients living with HIV– without repercussion – it is essentially treating them as less than human and stripping them of their dignity,” said Luisa Cabal, director of the International Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Misinformation and misconceptions around the risk of HIV transmission are commonplace in Chile and fuel discriminatory treatment. For example, despite the low risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS with proper interventions and the fact that there are Chilean regulations on the prevention of such transmission, health professionals will chastise HIV-positive women for getting pregnant, and pressure them to not become pregnant. In addition, women with HIV seeking reproductive health services are frequently refused care; given misleading and incomplete information; and their confidentiality is often betrayed when medical staff fail to value their privacy and inadvertently disclose their HIV status to family members or other patients.
“Every woman has a right to access medical healthcare without discrimination, coercion or violence. It’s time that the Chilean government protect those rights”, said Lilian Sepúlveda, deputy director of the International Legal Program and regional manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Among numerous other recommendations, the Center is calling on Chile to develop effective strategies for implementing existing legislation and international commitments on women’s rights and ensure that healthcare providers are properly trained in HIV transmission, best practices and the rights of patients.
Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a case against Chile on behalf of an HIV-positive woman who was sterilized without her permission after she gave birth. The petition argues that Chile violated *F.S.’ right to be free from discrimination, as well as her right to decide the number and spacing of her children, the right to be free from violence, and the right to have access to justice. The case F.S. vs. Chile was filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an international human rights body. The Inter-American Commission, based in Washington, D.C., monitors state members’ compliance with regional human rights treaties, including the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women. The Chilean government has ratified these treaties signifying its commitment to respect, protect, and fulfill basic human rights.
*Name changed to protect identity