Lambda Legal Wins Reversal of Custody Restriction That Barred a Mississippi Mother from Allowing Contact Between Children and Their Aunt
Testimony from infectious disease specialist convinces judge that HIV cannot be spread through casual contact within the home
(Jackson, MS, July 25, 2005) — Today Lambda Legal won the reversal of a temporary custody restriction placed by a judge in the Chancery Court of Jackson County that barred a Mississippi mother from allowing her children to be in the presence of their aunt because she has HIV. Lambda Legal represents Keri Rowell, who was granted an extension of the temporary custody of her three children in March 2005 contingent upon their being denied physical contact with their aunt, Tanya Wilkins, because Wilkins has HIV. Last week, Lambda Legal filed a brief advising the Court of medical information regarding the transmission of HIV in preparation for today’s hearing. During today’s hearing, Dr. Jason Parham, an Infectious Disease Specialist from Jackson testified, confirming that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact within the home and that there was no reason to keep the children away from their aunt. “We are extremely happy to see these children reunited with the aunt they love so much,” said Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “We were confident that the court could come to the clear conclusion that the restriction was unnecessary once provided with accurate information about HIV transmission and informed that there is simply no risk of HIV transmission through casual contact within the home.” In a custody hearing this past March, a judge granted Rowell an extension of the temporary custody of her three children as long as the children had no contact with her sister, Tanya Wilkins, because she has HIV. Prior to the ruling, Wilkins had always played an active role in the children’s lives, but since the ruling four months ago she has not been able to have any physical contact with them. Following today’s ruling, the children will have unrestricted access to their aunt. Cliff Johnson of Pigott, Reeves, Johnson & Minor, P.A. in Jackson, MS served as co-counsel with Lambda Legal.
Jackie Yodashkin 212-809-8585 ext.229
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.