Government of Ecuador Fails to Protect the Rights of People Living With HIV

(PRESS RELEASE) The Ecuadoran government violated the human rights of a young girl living with HIV according to a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—the highest human rights Court in the Americas.

The Court determined that the Ecuadoran government failed to implement protocols to ensure safe blood supply and quality health services in hospitals—leading to a young girl, Talía, being infected with HIV from a blood transfusion.

In its decision this week, the Court affirmed that states are accountable for the provision of quality health care to all women and girls free from discrimination—specifically making a direct connection to a landmark U.N. ruling in the case of Alyne, an Afro-Brazilian woman who was unable to access quality maternal health services and later died. The Center brought the case of Alyne to the U.N. and submitted an amicus brief to the Inter-American Court supporting Talía in April 2015.

Said Catalina Martínez Coral, acting regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The life of a young girl and her family changed forever because the government of Ecuador not only failed to ensure the quality of the country’s blood supply, but also failed to protect Talia and her family from persecution and discrimination due to her HIV status.

“The Inter-American Court ruling sets a groundbreaking precedent towards protecting the rights of people living with HIV and now Ecuador must take all necessary measures to ensure quality health services and end the discrimination and stigma around HIV.”

In June 1998, Talía received a blood transfusion at a local Red Cross. The blood supply was never tested and Talía later discovered she was infected with HIV. Her parents filed a lawsuit against the Red Cross who denied playing a role in infecting the young girl. After the girl’s HIV status became public, she was expelled from school and her family has experienced discrimination that has affected multiple facets of their lives. Today Talía still cannot get access to quality health services and faces discrimination on a daily basis.  

In September 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights determined that the government of Ecuador failed Talía, first by the local blood supply not being properly regulated for safety and again by not providing her with the specialized medical services she will need all her life. The Court also recognized the failure of the government to diligently investigate Talia’s human rights violations.

The Court urged the government of Ecuador to provide financial reparations to Talía and her family and provide Talía with any necessary health services and medical treatment. The Court also called on the government to provide Talía with free education.

It is undeniable that the standards around the right to education developed by the Inter-American Court are a huge step forward for the protection of marginalized groups, especially for girls and women living with HIV,” said Ramiro Ávila, lawyer for Talía. “We need a strong system for the protection of human rights and that means the full recognition of the right to health directly and autonomously through Article 26 of the American Convention.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked across the globe to shed light on cases of discrimination against women living with HIV. In 2009, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo brought a case against Chile before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of F.S., a Chilean woman living with HIV who at age 20 was sterilized during delivery without her knowledge or consent. Her case is still pending before the Commission.

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