HIV status a private matter

A biography of Patricia de Lille had invaded the right to privacy of three women whose names and HIV-positive status were disclosed in it, the constitutional court ruled yesterday.

A biography of Patricia de Lille had invaded the right to privacy of three women whose names and HIV-positive status were disclosed in it, the constitutional court ruled yesterday.

The three women were each awarded R35000 in damages from De Lille, author Charlene Smith and publisher New Africa Books.

"Smith and De Lille were liable for damages together with the publishers due to their infringement of the applicants' rights to privacy and dignity from the moment of the publication of the book," the court said.

"The use of pseudonyms instead of the applicants' real names would not have rendered the book any less authentic and nowhere could it be shown that the public interest demanded otherwise."

Only the publisher was held liable by an earlier Johannesburg high court decision. It was ordered to pay the women R15000 in damages each, and to delete any references to them in the unsold copies.

The women claimed that their right to privacy, dignity, psychological integrity and mental and intellectual well being were breached.

One complainant said her boyfriend, who had not known about her HIV status, burnt down her home and then deserted her after reading the book. - Sapa

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