After almost ten years of being positive, Iʼve heard my fair share of bigotry, homophobia and HIV-phobia, if you will, – even in healthcare, but this one really got my where it hurt.
Iʼd managed to call 999 to get myself an ambulance. Iʼd been suffering with utter exhaustion, constant horrendous diarrhoea and stomach pain for two days. I was admitted to resuscitation and almost sent to the ICU for dialysis I was so dehydrated, but I improved fairly rapidly and was sent to the ward.
I was poked and prodded, had needles stuck in me left, right and centre, drips galore, cannulas, a catheter, wonderful. On top of that i felt utterly terrible, Iʼd got some awful form of food poisoning but i was being treated well, no request too big or small, even when I had to be cleaned up in bed because my bowels couldnʼt control themselves ten or ﬁfteen times a day.
The next day, after the ward round, a junior doctor asked if he could take some arterial blood, arteries are deeper then veins so i knew it would hurt but not agony if done properly, “Are you OK having your blood taken, only i donʼt want to get a needle stick injury and get HIV”, I asked what on earth he meant, still lying there, dosed up on morphine and oxygen tubes sticking up my nose, “Oh I didnʼt mean anything by it, only some patients jump when they have their blood taken and Iʼd rather not get HIV today”. I burst into tears, at possibly one of the most vulnerable positions a person could be in and i was hearing this!
What little energy I had, I used to challenge him. “And you think thatʼs an appropriate way to talk to someone about HIV do you?”. I told him to leave the room and i burst into tears, feeling like some Typhoid Mary or a cockroach just gagging to be attacked with disinfectant. Then he came back in, tears rolling down my face, “oh dear Iʼm really sorry, I was just trying to make light of the situation, only I get nervous when taking blood”. I told him that if he thought that was a joke and was an appropriate way to make light of a situation maybe he shouldnʼt be a doctor after all. He then apologised and quickly left the room.
After a few more days i was a ready to go home but still furious over the way this doctor had spoken to me. It still amazes me in this day of acceptance and broad mindedness, supposedly, how someone in a “caring” profession can be so dumb and think such a comment would do anything but offend a person.
Fortunately, this incident stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of my experience in the health service and most particularly in the realm of HIV care where staff are tantamount to ubiquitously accepting and it just shows the difference in quality of care between the dumb and experienced HIV nurses and doctors. Thereʼs still a way to go in educating people but thankfully, there are many already pioneering the form of treatment
we wish to receive.
Thereʼs hope yet!