In 2001, a national newspaper ran a front-page story about the HIV status of Gitana Biriuk, a young woman who lived in a remote village in the countryside. The article claimed that her fellow villagers were gripped by the fear of death.
According to the newspaper, medical staff at a local hospital confirmed Gitana’s HIV status to journalists.
Gitana took legal action against the newspaper for a breach of her right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights. A court ruled in her favour. It found that the information was collected and published without Gitana’s consent, and that the article was not in the public interest but was merely intended to sell newspapers. The court awarded compensation to Gitana. It said that the newspaper had either deliberately sought to humiliate her or had intentionally allowed such negative consequences to occur.
Gitana did not think the compensation she was awarded made up for the damage done to her life. She decided to appeal against the decision.
Under Lithuanian law at the time, there were upper limits to the amount of compensation that could be awarded in such cases. The courts ultimately awarded Gitana just €2,892 – three times less than what she had originally been given – because she was unable to prove that the newspaper had intentionally published the information to degrade her.