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Parents of HIV-Infected Girl Sue Hospital

January 18, 1995

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Nicolae Ceausescu turned AIDS denial into state policy, and tainted blood infected thousands. Now a young victim of the late dictator’s approach to health care is fighting back.

The parents of a 6-year-old girl with AIDS are suing the government and the hospital where they claim their child was infected. They say Iasmina Calinciuc contracted the virus from an unclean syringe in 1993 while being treated for an ear infection.

Violeta and Gabriel Calinciuc want $183,200 in damages from the Health Ministry and St. Mary hospital in the northeastern city of Iasi.

``They didn’t take the proper security measures,″ said Mrs. Calinciuc, 28, a television reporter. ``The syringes were not used properly. I saw needles used twice with my own eyes.″

Romania has 2,900 children with AIDS _ more than any other nation in Europe. Health Ministry statistics say 1,067 children and 87 adults have died of AIDS in Romania since 1985.

Hospital authorities deny Iasmina was infected there. They say they have been using disposable syringes since 1990, making transmission impossible.

``She could have gotten AIDS from any of the dozens of injections she got since she was born, including vaccines and home medical care during these six years,″ hospital director Dr. Marin Burlea said Wednesday.

The case, which goes to court Feb. 20, illustrates the legacy of Ceausescu, whose refusal to acknowledge the threat of AIDS meant thousands of infants were infected with contaminated blood.

Underweight children were typically given blood transfusions to boost their strength. But needles were scarce and reused regularly without any measures to prevent transmission of the virus.

Ceausescu also banned contraception and abortion, leaving up to 100,000 infants abandoned. Some fell ill and were hospitalized when they contracted AIDS.

Iasmina’s parents are determined to fight for their daughter, no small feat in a country plagued by lingering Communist bureaucracy and a traditional lack of respect for civil rights.

``We have lived for so long without knowing what our rights are and how we can defend them,″ said Mrs. Calinciuc.

Iasmina, who suffers from full-blown AIDS, is receiving full treatment from St. Mary’s. She has lost weight, her growth is stunted and her lymph nodes have enlarged. Her muscles are atrophied, only small grey stumps remain of her teeth, her mother said.

Mrs. Calinciuc said the nongovernmental Romanian Anti-AIDS Association backs the lawsuit. She expects doctors to introduce evidence on how HIV infections occurred in the past.

Eugen Safta Romanov, a lawyer representing the couple for free, said he hoped the trial would persuade others to fight for their rights.

``Iasmina’s rights must be defended,″ he said. ``It should improve the health care system and help people understand their rights better.″

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