Parents of AIDS Child Sue Authorities in Landmark Case
IASI, Romania (AP) _ When word got out that 6-year-old Iasmina Calinciuc had AIDS, one neighbor scrubbed the stairwell with bleach. Others feared their children would get sick from eating her birthday cake.
Colleagues told her parents that even if Iasmina had, along with hundreds of other kids, contracted the disease by an injection in a state-run hospital, it was crazy to sue the state.
Iasmina doesn’t even know she has AIDS. A slight girl with long brown hair and eyeglasses, she enjoys painting, pop music and puppets. Her best friend is a parakeet called Rocco.
``When I grow up, I want to be a doctor,″ she said, snuggling on her father’s knee in the kitchen of their small apartment. ``So I can give injections to children and make them better.″
On Monday, in Romania’s first case of its kind, Iasmina’s parents are going to court to seek damages from the government.
The case has generated a great deal of interest _ and fear. Ignorance about AIDS remains widespread in Romania, where former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu made denial of AIDS state policy.
Under Ceausescu, whose regime collapsed in 1989, undernourished infants were injected with blood to boost their weight. One result was about 1,800 cases of infant AIDS. Romania has more children with AIDS than any other European country.
The Calinciucs claim Iasmina was infected in St. Mary Hospital in this northeast Romanian city in 1992. The Health Ministry and the hospital have said Iasmina may have gotten the AIDS virus from a vaccination or other injection.
``My child is a victim of the system I fight to change,″ said Iasmina’s mother, Violeta Calinciuc, a 28-year-old television journalist. ``It’s not just for Iasmina I’m doing this, but for all the children.″
Mrs. Calinciuc said she hopes the $190,000 lawsuit against the government and the hospital will help prevent further possible victims.
No Romanian law explicitly permits citizens to sue the state, said lawyer Eugen Safta-Romano, who is representing the family free of charge. But citizens may sue individuals and the institutions they represent, and that ought to apply to the state as well, he said.
``The whole point of this case is as an alarm signal so it doesn’t happen again,″ said Safta-Romano. ``People have to know they have fundamental rights as a human being.″
The law does try to discourage lawsuits. Any plaintiff has to pay a tax amounting to 10 percent of total damages sought before the trial even begins. That payment has been postponed in Iasmina’s case.