TMH 'insensitive' to HIV-positive patient

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  • Published 13.11.12

A 28-year-old patient has alleged that Tata Main Hospital (TMH) violated his right to confidentiality by making his HIV-positive status public and prodded National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society for a probe, but the premier health institution has denied it strongly.

Jharkhand Human Rights Conference, whom the Jamshedpur resident approached, submitted a petition before East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Himani Pande on Monday and complained to directors of both NACO and the state AIDS control society.

In May, the Mango resident, whose name is being withheld to respect his privacy, underwent surgery under head of TMH’s urology department Harprit Singh. During the course of treatment, he alleged, his bed linen and medical waste were collected everyday and sealed in a plastic packet marked HIV-positive.

As people saw the sticker, his HIV status spread among relatives, friends and neighbours, he said.

“I tried to commit suicide thrice since then. My life has changed completely,” the youth who holds an LLB degree from North Odisha University (Mayurbhanj) said, referring to his social ostracism.

He said he asked the human rights outfit to fight his case by roping in NACO and state AIDS control society to stop a rerun of this incident.

“I am an educated urban man. The hospital concerned is among the best known in the state. I stayed in a separate cabin. Despite these relative advantages, I got insensitive treatment. I shudder to think what poor, semi-literate HIV-positive persons undergo,” he said.

Human rights patron Manoj Mishra who submitted the petitions expressed concern. “The TMH is a century-old hospital. We didn’t expect callousness. According to NACO, disclosure of identity of a person living with HIV or AIDS is prohibited. But THM officials have denied charges. We demand a detailed probe into the episode,” he said.

What most Indians, including healthcare personnel, don’t know or forget are three basics guaranteed by NACO to a person with HIV or AIDS — right to confidentiality and informed consent and against discrimination.

Right to confidentiality ensures that a person can keep his or her HIV status from becoming public and even take a pseudonym to avoid ostracism or discrimination.

Informed consent means that as implications of HIV and AIDS are different from other diseases, it is the doctor’s onus to tell the patient about any test or treatment, so that the person agrees to procedures with full knowledge.

Right against discrimination ensures equal treatment, HIV status no bar.

If a person’s confidentiality is breached or rights are violated, he can go to court.

On paper, the norms protect the person from social ostracism or harassment. Reality is often different.

However, TMH general manager medical services T.P. Madhusudhanan denied pasting stickers on containers. “There was no discrimination in this case. We keep waste or used materials of HIV-positive patients separately as they need to be specially disinfected,” said the official.

Are healthcare workers callous about rights of HIV victims?