The European Court of Human Rights last week ruled that Sweden violated the guarantees of liberty and security of the European Convention on Human Rights when the country forcibly isolated an HIV-positive man, reports the International Lesbian and Gay Association of Europe. The Swedish man discovered he was HIV-positive in 1994 and was believed to have transmitted the virus to another man in 1990. A local health official applied for and received a court order to keep the man in compulsory isolation in a hospital to prevent him from spreading the virus to others. He was kept in isolation for about a year and a half.
The human rights court ruled unanimously that the compulsory isolation was not a last resort to prevent him from spreading HIV and that other less severe measures should have been adopted. The court also ruled that health authorities had failed to strike a fair balance between protecting the public safety and the man's right to liberty.
"Due to the long window period of the HIV infection and the fact that it is not reversible after a few days, HIV cannot be handled on the basis of traditional methods like quarantine," said Brigit Jaksa of the nongovernmental organization Habeas Corpus Working Group, which provides legal services to victims of discrimination. "The court made a stand against deprivation of liberty in case of arbitrary acts of authorities that mainly resonates uneducated public hysteria."
There was no report as to what damages, if any, the HIV-positive man received through the court decision.