A group of lawyers are looking at the possibility of suing Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, for his unacceptable conduct where he breached ‘patient confidentiality’ when he publicly announced that the mother of the 6 year old child from Kuliyapitiya was HIV+.
Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that the lawyers are currently in consultation with several international organisations seeking advice to take legal action over Kariyawasam’s blatant disregard to safeguard the woman’s health condition by alleging that she was HIV+. Speaking to the media over the weekend in Kandy, the Education Minister claimed that the mother was HIV+, and thus there were chances the child can contract it from her, so he would get a court order to separate the mother from the child and hand over the child to probationary services.
Following this statement which resulted in an uproar with people taking to social media demanding Kariyawasam’s resignation, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also reprimanding him, the Education Minister extended an apology and went on to blame the Zonal Education Director as the person who informed him that the mother was HIV+.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sankalpa Marasinghe, Medical Officer of the De Soysa Hospital for Women expressed his shock and shame over the current developments in Kuliyapitiya. “What shocks me the most is not the degree of ignorance revealed at the village in Kuliyapitiya but the level of complete ignorance shown by the Minster of Education. I’m pretty sure it’s not just the Minister of Education who lacks such knowledge in the parliament,” he said.
He emphasized that the National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP) draws a five year national policy on HIV and AIDS prevention, and the current policy which concludes in 2017 rests on two main pillars, which are; patient confidentiality and non-discrimination of HIV infected patients.
Marasinghe noted that these policy decisions are taken in order to protect patients from discrimination.
According to him, it was apparent that the Minster of Education and the other officials involved in this issue keep walking deep in to the wilderness rather than out of it. “On the above context, it is certainly within the rights of the mother and child to seek justice from the court of law sighting the violation of fundamental rights and patient confidentiality,” Marasinghe added.
Interestingly none of the country’s big time NGOs, who receive foreign funding for HIV/AIDS awareness have come out condemning the minister’s statement.
Meanwhile Dr. Natasha Balendra, chairperson of the National Child Protection Authority and Dr. Deepika Udagama, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in a joint statement said that the health status of the boy’s parents is irrelevant and it was the government’s duty to recognize the child’s right to education.
The Human Rights Commission and the National Child Protection Authority also reiterated that no question has arisen about the proper care and custody of the child.
“The health status of the mother must be viewed as a personal matter, which therefore requires the sensitivity of all parties concerns. Just as our own medical records are confidential – so are hers. According to the National HIV AIDS Policy it is the sole duty of all political leaders, government officials and media institutions to respect this confidentiality and honour the privacy of the child and his family,” the joint statement added.
We publish below Karayawasam’s earlier statement again: