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I imagine itʼs rare for HIV to become a direct issue in the work place for most of us, but in my line of work, itʼs a frequent issue, and as a result some impressive and far less than impressive responses emerge.

spoon2I work in inpatient mental health, thatʼs all I shall say. We often have patients with a history of intravenous drug use and some of them as a result contract HIV. A patient we had recently, presented with HIV mania, not something Iʼd heard of before, I have heard of HIV related dementia but not this. I tried to read up on it online, but could find precious little information.

Still, the patient came and whilst a little unsettled, was more or less OK. In stark contrast to this, was the reaction of some of the staff. Not spoken aloud, but whispered in private were comments such as:

  • “Iʼm not drinking out of a cup heʼs drunk out of, what if I catch it”
  • “Am I OK using the toilet after heʼs used it”
  • “He must have had a lot of gay sex to get that”
  • “Iʼm not washing my spoon along with his”
  • “He wouldnʼt have got that if heʼd had sex with a nice woman”

Astonishingly, these phrases actually emerged from peoples mouths. Slightly reassuringly however, it emerged from the mouths of precious few and Iʼm pleased to say when others heard comments such as these, were instantly put in their place, quite to the shock of one person who seemed stunned at the idea that HIV can be transmitted during straight sex as well as gay sex and that actually more straight people have HIV than gay people.

My favourite however moment however was trying to extract from a person how on earth it would be possible to contract HIV from a spoon.

The mind boggles.

Andrew Cook (@acook59 on twitter)

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