Girl denied HIV therapy by father is put into care

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A girl aged three, whose father is refusing to allow her to be treated for HIV, was taken into custody yesterday after the pair flew to Heathrow airport from Australia.

The girl and her father, aged 39, were met by two representatives from the High Court who took the child to hospital for a medical examination.

The girl tested positive for HIV last year while in Australia and would normally be treated with anti-retroviral drugs to prolong her life. But her father, an alternative therapist, will not consent to her receiving medical treatment and he fled from Britain two years ago to stop that happening.

Yesterday the Lord Chancellor's Department said the girl had been made a ward of court and would remain in the care of Camden social services in north London until a judge decided on her long-term future.

The father was taken away by police, but not arrested, after arriving at Heathrow. During the flight from Sydney he was accompanied by a woman social worker, who kept the girl's passport to ensure the pair did not leave the country.

The man, who cannot be identified, fled to Australia in September 1999 with the mother of the child after the High Court ordered an HIV test for their daughter, who was then four months old.

The mother, who had been infected with HIV by a previous partner, ignored medical advice to take drugs during pregnancy and abstain from breastfeeding to reduce the risk of transmission. She died from an Aids-related illness in Victoria last October at the age of 33. After her death, the child was tested and proved to be HIV positive.

Child welfare officers in Victoria believed the girl should receive treatment and a seven-month legal battle ensued in which they tried to obtain guardianship of the child. Last week, after police found the father and daughter in Sydney, a court ruled that the pair should remain together and be permitted to return to Britain.

Before leaving Australia, the man was reported to have said: "As far as I know, when we arrive in England we are free. You can't keep persecuting individuals who haven't broken the law."

Last month he explained why he was defying doctors, who say the child is dying and want to start treating her conventionally with anti-Aids drugs. He said: "You cannot say a woman who has cancer, and dies because she doesn't have anti-cancer drugs, is a reason for a child to be given anti-cancer drugs. It doesn't make sense that you should say the same thing about HIV.

"There's no black and white in HIV at all. You can't say what's good treatment for one person is good treatment for someone else. I am simply following the advice of the doctors in the UK and the doctors in America, who have experience in dealing with hundreds of cases of children with HIV, and I believe that their experience is much more valuable than a single doctor in Victoria who has dealt with four children on anti-retroviral therapy."

The Lord Chancellor's Department said the girl's future would be decided by the family division of the High Court.

* An asylum-seeking mother who cannot breastfeed because she is HIV positive has been given permission by the High Court to seek judicial review of a government refusal to provide her with tokens to obtain formula milk. If the claim is successful, scores of women in a similar position are expected to become entitled to the same benefit.