EATG » Stigma and Discrimination in Healthcare: Alex’s story (Switzerland)

Stigma and Discrimination in Healthcare: Alex’s story (Switzerland)

 

I have been HIV-positive for the past six years. When I lived in Berlin, the only problems I observed around HIV stigma were with people on dating apps and mainly because at that time very few people knew about U=U (treatment making HIV non-transmissible) and PrEP (which you can take to prevent getting HIV) was not yet available. But I never had any problem with my HIV status when seeking other medical help there.

 

I could see immediately how shocked she was

 

Almost five years ago I moved to Switzerland. I assumed it would be similar there, but I did encounter discrimination about four years ago in a hospital. I needed to have minor surgery which involved anaesthesia and that meant an overnight stay in hospital. When I arrived at the hospital, a nurse asked me if I have any medicines that I take daily. This is a standard question and I understand that they might need to know in case of any emergency. I had never had any problem in disclosing to clinicians that I was HIV+ in Berlin, so I simply told her that I take HIV treatment.

I could see immediately how shocked she was. She told me that she would consult with the doctor and that I would also need to talk with him. So, the doctor came and talked with me and there was no problem as far as he was concerned, because he knew about HIV. He just had a conversation with me about the medications I was taking and whether I’d had any side effects and so on. Anyway, he left and did the surgery without any problems.

 

She gave the other patients their food as normal, but then she stopped and put gloves on before she served me

 

After the surgery I was put in a small ward with four other patients. The same nurse came to bring us our lunch, or it might have been dinner already. She gave all the other patients their food as normal, but then she stopped and put gloves on before she served my food to me.
I asked her why she had put gloves on to give me my meal and she leaned in close and said very quietly that it was because I had HIV. I was very shocked by her answer and, later on, even more so when I saw that my medical card now had “HIV” in big letters on the front, with a red circle drawn round it, which apparently had been done by them.

 

I saw that my medical card now had “HIV” in big letters on the front… which apparently had been done by them

 

I didn’t argue with the nurses at the time, because I don’t think this ignorance was their fault. But I wrote an email afterwards to the clinic director, telling them what had happened and why it was wrong. I told him that he needs to educate their personnel, especially the nurses, about what it means to have HIV today. I got an answer with an apology and a promise that the education process will be done.

 

I told (the clinic director) that he needs to educate their personnel, especially the nurses, about what it means to have HIV today