Gay man ‘refused service at dental practice because he is HIV positive’
A gay man is asking for help to raise legal funds to bring a case because he was refused service at a dental practice because he is HIV positive.
The man, who has asked to remain anonymous, is asking for £4000 to present a legal challenge against his dental practice.
After visiting the dentist, which is based in the East Midlands, in January 2017, the man was refused an appointment until the end of the practice’s day, with a dental nurse allegedly discussing his medical condition in a place which was audible to other patients.
With just three weeks to raise funds to bring his case to court, the man is asking for donations to pay for legal representation so he can address “the bigger problem”.
“In January 2017, I went to my local dentist in Northamptonshire,” he told PinkNews.
“I registered as a new patient and was given a questionnaire and I disclosed my HIV status on that questionnaire. Not soon after handing that questionnaire in I was called around the corner – not in a room – by the dental nurse.
“She basically said that she couldn’t see me until the last appointment of the day. This was at 10.45 in the morning. They said it was their policy to see people with my condition at the end of the day and I think other people could hear what was going on.”
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for a dentist to treat a person differently because they have HIV.
Furthermore, dental equipment does not need to be sterilised twice after being used on a patient with HIV, as standard sterilisation measures combat the risk of transmission to another patient, therefore those with the condition do not need to be seen later on in the practice’s day.
The man’s complaint has been upheld by the NHS and the practice has since changed its policy. However, after speaking to other people with HIV on a Terrence Higgins Trust forum, he discovered he is far from alone in his experience.
“The reason why I’m bringing the case is really because it’s part of a bigger problem. I just want to raise awareness,” he told PinkNews.
“I think the practice owner, the dentist, still seems to think that he’s in the right for doing what he did, or instructing his nurse to do that,” he continued.
“I’ve requested a copy of their policy, and as of yet I have not seen that policy. Since the complaint was upheld by the NHS, they’ve assured me that they’ve changed their policy.”
“But I worry that if someone went back with HIV, they’d tell them exactly the same all over again.”
Living with HIV can result in those with the condition having more dental issues than someone without the illness, say the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Sometimes dentists prescribe medication that can interfere with HIV medication, say the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Living with HIV can and HIV can result in a higher risk of oral health problems.
Leading HIV charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust have spoken out in support of the man’s campaign, saying that it is “crucial” in order to “combat stigma”.
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“It’s both shocking and sad that cases like this are still not uncommon within medical settings, and it’s crucial that we continue to challenge them to combat stigma, to ensure people living with HIV don’t experience unfair treatment when accessing services,” said Ian Green, the Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust.
“We absolutely support this case, and all efforts to ensure that people living with HIV are treated equally, with dignity and respect when visiting the dentist or taking part in any other kind of medical procedure.”
Donations to the man’s legal fund can be made here.
“All practices must comply with equality legislation in their treatment of patients and in this case the practice concerned fell short of what is expected,” said a spokesperson for NHS England, Central Midlands.
“We have addressed this matter directly with the practice concerned and it has subsequently changed its procedures to ensure that such an incident will not happen again.”