Russian courts disapprove of discrimination based on HIV status

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation invalidated the ban on the work of flight attendants for people with positive HIV status. In a separate ruling, Basmanny district court of Moscow illegalized the decision to ban entry to the Russian Federation based on the applicant’s HIV status.

On March 13, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation illegalized an article of the Federal Aviation Regulations which had been approved by the Russian Ministry of Transport back in 2002. This regulation had introduced unconditional prohibition for HIV-infected persons to work as flight attendants. The court ruled that this article of the Regulations was invalid and should not be applied. The court pointed out that HIV-infected persons could be considered unfit for work as flight attendants only on the basis of a medical report, if their state of health did not allow such work. The court rejected the arguments presented by the Ministry of Transport that flight attendants who had a positive HIV status could pose a danger to the passengers.

The applicant, whose interests were represented in the Supreme Court by lawyer Dmitry Bartenev with the support of ADC “Memorial” and by lawyer Maxim Olenichev, had successfully worked as a flight attendant for more than 10 years, but in 2016 he was declared unfit for work after being diagnosed with HIV. The decision that he was unfit for work had been made on the basis of an order issued by the Ministry of Transport, which stated that an HIV infection was a universal obstacle to work in aviation. Already in 2011, a similar ban on work for HIV-positive persons as civil aviation pilots had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

On the same day, Basmanny district court of Moscow declared illegal the decision on banning Roman Khalupa, a Moldovan citizen whose family members were citizens of the Russian Federation, from entering Russia based on his HIV-positive status. This court ruling was made after the ECtHR decision in “Novruk and Others v. Russia” case, which had been made on March 15, 2016. Five similar complaints by foreign citizens, who could not reunite with their families in Russia, were assembled together in this case. Mr. Khalupa’s interests were also represented by Dmitry Bartenev in cooperation with ADC “Memorial”.

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s antidiscrimination ruling, lawyer Dmitry Bartenev said that it was an important step in overcoming discrimination against HIV-positive people in Russia. Prejudices associated with HIV infection lie at the heart of numerous prohibitions, which increase the isolation of people with HIV and ultimately hinder effective HIV prevention.