Refugee gives birth to HIV-positive child out of ignorance, misinformation

Gloria, from Sierra Leone, arrived in Greece at the age of 22 by boat from Syria to the island of Kos. She applied for asylum status and, while in Greece, married and became pregnant. However, as no one informed her that as an asylum seeker she was eligible for free healthcare, she did not see a doctor during her pregnancy and kept working when her husband was deported to Turkey for selling pirated CDs. After she fainted at the entrance to her apartment building in an advanced stage of pregnancy, she was taken to the Alexandra Maternity Hospital where she was found to be HIV positive but was discharged, even though she had a fever. After the baby was born, she begged the hospital to keep the baby temporarily until she was able find someone to look after it while she worked. Thanks to the persistence of the hospital social worker, she was referred to the Syngros Hospital’s infectious diseases unit. A psychiatrist volunteer at the hospital who was a member of the humanitarian group Act Up Hellas, undertook to negotiate with the security police in order to speed up her asylum application for humanitarian reasons. While members of Act Up Hellas made efforts to obtain identity papers for the child, the mother was admitted to Syngros Hospital with a high fever, anemia and hemorrhaging. (The Elena Women’s Hospital, where she had first been taken as an emergency case, had refused to admit her.) Finally, with the help of Act Up Hellas members, she managed to obtain papers, to take charge of her child and, with the help of doctors at the infectious disease unit, be admitted to the hostel for HIV patients in Kaminia. Later, upon learning that as a refugee she had been entitled to medical care all along, she was extremely angry. If she had known, she would have visited an obstetrician and reduced the likelihood of passing on the HIV virus to her child.