HIV Positive Chilean Women Suing Country for Forced Sterilization

A HIV-infected woman has filed an international case against Chile and petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after being sterilized against her will. The 27-year-old Chilena—identified only as F.S.—said doctors at the state hospital where she gave birth carried out the procedure without her consent after learning that she was HIV positive. The petition was submitted by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo, a Chilean-based organization for people with HIV and AIDS.

F.S. was diagnosed with HIV in 2002 shortly after learning she was pregnant. Though she was referred to a hospital for treatment during her pregnancy, she never asked to be sterilized. In fact, she and her husband had plans for more children.

"Forced sterilization is a violation of a woman's most basic human rights and is all too often committed against members of vulnerable groups, which deserve special protection, such as women living with HIV," said Luisa Cabal of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "It's time that the Chilean government respect the human rights of all its citizens and take concrete action to guarantee that a woman living with HIV receives quality reproductive health services and has the ability to make decisions about her own life."

And this case is far from unique in Chile. A 2004 study conducted by Vivo Positivo showed that 29% of sterilized women living with HIV were pressured by medical staff to undergo the operation and 12.9% never consented at all. The study also showed that these women received biased information against pregnancies if HIV positive despite the fact that there are ways to avoid transmitting the virus to the child.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo ask that the Commission urge Chile to acknowledge the violation committed against F.S., undo all harm and provide compensation and that they create policies to protect the rights of women living with HIV.