District Court denies misguided efforts to strip children away from
mother with HIV-positive live-in partner
AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Chief of Medicine submitted
letter to the court clarifying HIV transmission facts
WASHINGTON (July 7, 2015) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today applauded a Kansas court for restoring parental rights to Donna J. Branom, a Kansas mother whose live-in partner’s HIV-positive status had been the basis for a June decision restricting her access to her children. A motion filed by the father to suspend Branom’s parenting time over misplaced concern about the children’s potential risk of exposure to HIV in her home due to her fiancé’s HIV status was denied yesterday by the Honorable Faith Maughn, Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Sedgwick County, Kansas.
“We are very pleased with the Judge’s decision in this case. Once the proper documentation and evidence was provided to the court, justice prevailed. Our firm will continue to fight for and protect the rights of all people,” said Bradley R. Ward, an attorney with O’Hara and O’Hara, L.L.C. in Wichita, who worked pro bono on the case for the couple.
On June 22nd, Branom’s parental visitation rights with the children—ages 8 and 16—were restricted after the children’s father petitioned the court complaining that Henry Calderon, Jr., Ms. Branom’s live-in companion, was HIV-positive and that his HIV status posed a direct threat to the children’s welfare.
On July 1st, in anticipation of yesterday’s court hearing, Michael Wohlfeiler, J.D., M.D., AAHIVMS, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Chief of Medicine, wrote a letter to the court on behalf of Ms. Branom and Mr. Calderon, Jr. advocating for the restoration of Branom’s parental rights over her children. In his letter to Judge Maughn, Dr. Wohlfeiler noted that, “…concern about the children’s risk of exposure to HIV, based on the HIV status of Ms. Branom’s live-in partner, Henry Calderon,… is incorrect and not supported by universally accepted medical facts regarding how HIV is transmitted.”
In a joint statement following yesterday’s ruling, Donna J. Branom & Henry Calderon, Jr., who is a Reverend affiliated with the HEMA Universal Life Community Services, Inc., stated:
“We are thrilled beyond words that we were able to get the order reversed! However, we still do not think that the judge did it because she knew it was the right thing to do. We felt as though Judge Maughn was pressured into reversing the motion. She was told by our lawyer that her decision would have a national effect. We had also requested that my ex be sanctioned, to prevent him from harassing us further, and to have two consecutive weeks with the babies, for time lost. Both of the requests were denied.
This is not over! We not only plan to fight back for the discrimination and the violation of our 4th amendment rights, but also to try to amend the laws here in Kansas to make it to where what we went through doesn’t happen to anyone else. We are hoping that if it does get changed, that other states will follow suit, and change their laws as well. Our dream is to see it become changed on a federal level. No child(ren) should ever be taken out of a loving home because of HIV, or any other disability for that matter.”
“We congratulate Ms. Branom, Mr. Calderon and the children on their swift victory against HIV discrimination in Kansas. This incident serves as both a reminder and an opportunity to confront many of the misplaced fears—and fear mongering—that often surrounds people living with HIV and/or AIDS. While we celebrate with the family today, we must remain vigilant to continue to combat such discrimination head on whenever and wherever it arises,” added AHF President Michael Weinstein.