By Yvette Martyn

stephoscope

A doctor with HIV has been unfairly treated by the media

I was absolutely appalled to read the way a newspaper report described a doctor working with HIV.

The Sun’s article read, “hundreds of hospital patients feared to have been treated by a doctor with HIV.” Whilst his patients are described as, “people he potentially infected.”

Even though, of 7000 similar patients at risk of contracting the infection over a 5 year period, not one tested positive.

The article is aimed at revealing the delayed action by the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS trust, which took two years to compile a list of his patients.

The Doctor also worked at Kettering General Hospital, they insisted the risk of contracting the virus was small. So small in fact, that the hospital told the BBC that 28 similar programs of notification between 1998 and 2003 meant 7000 people were told they were at risk but not one person tested positive.

Second class citizens

People who have HIV are not second class citizens; occupational health ensures that all precautions necessary are taken to protect patients from contracting the virus. But healthcare workers can still practice safely in certain specialties without putting patients at risk.

In 2007 an unnamed doctor wrote an article for the Guardian describing the aftermath of his diagnosis with HIV. In it he describes his:

  • Fear that his colleagues would recognise his condition by the tell tale signs.
  • Dread that his career was over.
  • Relief when he was informed that as he wasn’t a surgeon and didn’t perform invasive procedures he could continue to work.
  • Reading of literature on safe practice.
  • Choosing of a specialty which ensured he didn’t pass the infection to his patients.

The doctor stated that his colleagues were unsupportive when he came out as HIV positive. He told The Guardian, “You might think medicine would be an enlightened working environment for the chronically ill, but the NHS doesn’t do sick doctors very well.”

Workers should not fear discrimination

HIV is an occupational hazard of healthcare due to needlestick injuries (involving a needle stabbing the skin, sometimes resulting in exposure to body fluids). Now I’m not saying the doctor concerned in The Sun contracted the virus on the job. But all healthcare workers should not fear discrimination by patients and colleagues.

The NHS ensures healthcare workers practice in a safe way following a diagnosis with HIV. The Sun’s, “Doc’s HIV kept from patients” does very little to allow workers to practice without the fear of prejudice.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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