Working in IT and dealing with data protection, I tend to see infractions wherever I go. Credit card reciepts left in shops, passwords written on PostIt notes, people accessing online banking on public WiFi etc. But one of the last places I expected to see something like this was my local GP Surgery (for those outside the UK: A GP is a General Practioner (Doctor)).
Let me set the scene for you. It’s a Friday afternoon and I’ve popped into my GP Surgery to talk about some on-going medication. I’m leafing through a year old copy of OK! magazine and trying not to make eye contact with the rather amorous pensioner sat opposite me. I hear some racuous laughter from the reception desk, and being bored (and nosey) I decide to listen in discretely.
To my horror they were discussing a patient, and after only a couple of minutes I knew said patient’s name and which embarassing (and seemingly hilarious) ailment from which they were suffering. Living in a small town I knew exactly which poor soul they were talking about as they have a very distinctive surname. After I’d been in and seeing my doctor, I had to go to reception and make a follow-up appointment. Whilst I was doing so I noticed a stack of files on a desk, to the top one was paperclipped a white form, with the word “menopause” scribbled on it in large scrawl. Clearly visible from where I was standing. If I’d been so inclined I’m sure I could have made out the patients name from the file too.
Thus far I haven’t told my GP of my HIV status, for no other reason than I’ve not visited them since diagnosis and it hasn’t been relevant. But now I don’t see myself ever telling my GP. But I see that it’s important that all my care providers are working together, my GP, my HIV specialist, my therapist, all to give me the best joined-up care to keep me healthy and and happy.
However, I don’t want “HIV” scrawled across a file and left on reception, or gossiping receptionists telling anyone who’s within earshot. No I don’t have anything to hide, I’m not ashamed of being HIV+, but I have a right to privacy and I don’t see it being respected at that surgery. It only takes a few seconds of idle gossip between two employees for the whole town to suddenly be saying “That Sam has the AIDS!”. Maybe in a more educated time it wouldn’t matter so much, but here we are.
It’s a shame that, in 2012, I have to choose between my privacy and my care.