HIV patients ‘still facing discrimination’ in Wales

Henrietta Ronson May 1, 2009
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A sexual health doctor in Wales has claimed that some patients with HIV are still victims of prejudice and are being denied treatment by GPs for everyday illnesses.

Dr Olwen Williams told BBC Wales’ Dragon’s Eye that HIV patients who go to their GP about a common complaint often find themselves being referred to hospitals.

Dr Williams claims these patients are experiencing “very subtle” discrimination.

“It might be when they go to the dentist and try and register, when they fill in the form they suddenly find there are no spaces on the list.

“Other things that are probably even more subtle is that they’ll go to their GP, divulge they’re HIV positive, with a complaint at the time that’s very common that the GP should be able to deal with, but actually told they have to see their HIV physician for this condition.

“Of course that really denies them access to health care at a point where they actually need it.

“If I was someone with cancer and I went to a GP with a common cold and I was told ‘sorry I can’t deal with that’ because I’ve got cancer I’d be so amazed – that’s what our patients are experiencing.”

“My concern here is that we’ve still got fear and prejudice and ignorance that’s actually driving discrimination and stigma in Wales. And I think this is something major that we have to tackle.”

The British Medical Association have denied that doctors are discriminating against HIV patients, saying that some GPs may be overly cautious when referring patients.

Dr Andrew Dearden, the chair of the British Medical Association’s Welsh council, maintained that it would be “unprofessional and unethical” for a doctor to discriminate against someone because of any illness.

Nevertheless, he continued that some doctors might not always feel they had all the information and training needed to treat certain conditions.

Dr Dearden said: “Remember that doctors always refer patients to other doctors or, for example, physios, when they feel there’s a need for extra information, diagnosis, tests or treatment.”

“Generally you would expect GPs to treat those things within practice as long as they’re confident those things are not serious complications of the disease.”

There are currently more than 1,000 people in Wales living with HIV.

Related topics: Wales

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