Strasbourg Court Fines Russia for Giving HIV-Positive Prisoner Aspirin

Kresty Prison in St. Petersburg. Source: Nezavisimaya GazetaThe European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ordered Russia to pay an HIV-positive prisoner 37,000 Euros in compensation for denying him proper medical care.

The Russian human rights organization Agora told on Friday that the court convicted Russia of violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Russia was convicted of the later offense.

The HIV-positive prisoner, who had been held in St. Petersburg’s famous Kresty prison, appealed to the Strasbourg Court in November 2005. His diagnosis came two days after his arrest on May 20, 2004, and the prisoner’s health began to decline that October.

When the prisoner appealed to doctors at Kresty for treatment, he was told to take aspirin, papaverine, and painkillers.

When the man tried to object that this type of treatment was clearly insufficient, he was threatened with solitary confinement, which he was placed in at the end of October.

Conditions in the solitary cell were deplorable: prisoners in neighboring cells confirmed that there was no heat, with temperatures in the winter dropping to 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit, along with no ventilation or hot water. Moreover, medical personnel rarely visited the area.

Medics at Kresty said that they “don’t have medicine for HIV-positive prisoners due to the lack of funding.” When asked for anti-retroviral drugs by the HIV-positive prisoner, they administered painkillers and added some extra sugar and margarine to his daily rations.

The prisoner was twice refused admittance to a hospital on the basis that there wasn’t enough space because of so many HIV patients already there.

The Russian government insisted in court that the prisoner had received adequate medical care. Officials said that he was regularly examined by competent doctors who carried out a series of medical tests on his blood, which, in their opinion, was sufficient to judge the condition of his health.

The Strasbourg Court pointed out that the patient lacks the necessary medical knowledge to know what drugs he would need to treat his condition without a doctor’s prescription.