Elton John has little chance of adoption: Ukraine

KIEV Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:53pm IST

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KIEV (Reuters Life!) - Elton John has virtually no chance of adopting an HIV-positive toddler from Ukraine, the country's family minister said on Tuesday.

But Ukraine Family Minister Yuri Pavlenko told Reuters that he hoped the British singer's intentions would encourage Ukrainians to adopt sick children.

Elton John said on Saturday that a 14-month-old baby boy named Lev had "stolen" his heart and wanted to adopt him together with his long-term partner, David Furnish.

The two visited an orphanage for children whose parents have HIV in the industrial east of the country with John's AIDS Foundation.

"Officially, Elton John has not approached the ministry or any other authority with a request to adopt the child at the Makeyevka orphanage," Pavlenko said. "In any case, if there were such a request from Elton John we would have to refuse."

Pavlenko said 62-year-old John is too old to adopt the baby as he is not allowed to be older than the child by more than 45 years and prospective parents must be married.

John's and Furnish's civil union would not be recognized as marriage in Ukraine.

"We are not treating this as a request to adopt but as a call to Ukrainians -- adopt these children, give them a chance to live, irrespective of whether they are healthy or have such a diagnosis," Pavlenko said.

He said there were no exceptions to the rules.

"The only way would be if parliament adopts a separate special law on making Elton John an adoptive parent of this particular child. But, frankly speaking, we would be against this if such a law were to be initiated," he said.

A London-based spokesman for the singer of such songs as "Crocodile Rock" and "Candle in the Wind" said he had no comment to make in response to the minister's remarks.

Ukraine has one of the highest rising rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections, which develops into AIDS.

International organizations such as the United Nation's children's arm, UNICEF, estimate about half a million of the country's 47 million people are living with HIV.

Of those almost 200,000 are women and over 5,000 are children infected by their parents. Pavlenko said just 20 families have adopted children that are HIV-infected.

John has been active in Ukraine raising awareness of AIDS for several years now, giving a free concert to tens of thousands two years ago in Kiev's main square.

On Saturday, he said the death of an old friend had helped him change his mind about adoption and suggested that his partner Furnish, who is a 46-year-old Canadian, might have a better chance with the legal procedure of adoption.

"Having seen Lev today, I would love to adopt him," John told journalists on Saturday.

"I don't know how we do that but he has stolen my heart. And he has stolen David's heart and it would be wonderful if we can have a home. I've changed my mind today," he said.

(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki, additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London; editing by Paul Casciato)

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