When Andy walked into a public healthcare facility for rehabilitative treatment for his heart problem, he was stunned to be turned away.
"Once I told her I am an HIV patient, she told me no, she could not do the rehab for me," said Andy (not his real name), a 40-year-old operations manager. "I felt disappointed and discriminated against." It is not the first time he has felt such discrimination - four years ago, shortly after he was diagnosed, he went to a skin clinic to be treated for warts and was told by a skin specialist he deserved it for being HIV-positive.
Such discrimination by healthcare staff, though uncommon, continues to happen here and around the world, and it is this sort of ignorance and discrimination that experts hope to address with the first Asia Pacific HIV Practice Course for healthcare workers.
Dr Sophia Archuleta, a senior consultant at the division of infectious diseases at National University Hospital (NUH), said HIV patients are going to seek healthcare services unrelated to their condition more as they age. "Now patients have increased opportunities to run into people who might not be familiar with...or might not have the comfort level of treating someone with HIV." But people with HIV need not be treated any differently from other patients, she said.
The four-day seminar is organised by NUH, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, Action for Aids Singapore and the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control, and held in conjunction with the 10th Singapore Aids Conference.