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Some HIV-Positive People in Wales Denied Treatment for Common Conditions, Physician Says

May 4, 2009

Some HIV-positive people in Wales are being denied medical treatment for common illnesses, Olwen Williams, a physician specializing in sexually transmitted infections, said recently, BBC News reports. Williams noted that primary care physicians often refer HIV-positive people to hospitals or HIV specialists for common conditions, such as colds.

The British Medical Association denied that physicians are discriminating against people living with HIV/AIDS and said that some physicians might be more cautious in referring HIV-positive people to specialists. However, Williams said that HIV-positive people are experiencing "very subtle" discrimination, adding that they might disclose their HIV status to a provider and be told they need to visit their HIV specialist. "If I was someone with cancer and I went to a [PCP] with 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 our experiencing," Williams said, adding that such practices "den[y]" care to HIV-positive people "at a point where they actually need it." Williams added, "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."

Andrew Dearden, chair of the British Medical Association's Welsh council, said it is "unprofessional and unethical" for physicians to discriminate because of an illness. Dearden added that some physicians might not feel they have adequate training to treat some conditions. "Remember that doctors always refer patients to other doctors ... when they feel there's a need for extra information, diagnosis, tests or treatment," Dearden said. A recent study found that about half of HIV-positive people in the United Kingdom had experience discrimination from a health worker in the previous year, according to a spokesperson from the Terrence Higgins Trust (BBC News, 5/1).

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