EATG » Stigma and Discrimination in Healthcare: Mario’s story (Italy)

Stigma and Discrimination in Healthcare: Mario’s story (Italy)

I’ve had several incidents of discrimination by health services over the past decade. For example, when I had to have a gastroscopy, I was originally scheduled as the first appointment of the day, but then they found out I had HIV, I was put to the end of the schedule. They told me they weren’t “adequately equipped” to do the procedure earlier in the day which is very worrying – what about all the people who have undiagnosed HIV or Hepatitis that they might see? Their infection control procedures should be universal, for everyone. They made me feel like shit.

 

I’m on treatment, undetectable and non-transmissible, but they didn’t even ask about that, they just said they were unable to treat me

 

I’ve had particularly bad experiences with dentists. In Italy, by law there should not be discrimination against people with HIV but private dentists can refuse you. And often, you only go to a dentist when it’s urgent, when you are already in pain. I was in pain but three separate dentists refused to treat me when I told them the truth about having HIV. I’m on treatment, undetectable and non-transmissible, but they didn’t even ask about that, they just said they were unable to treat me. They said “we don’t have the right sterilisation equipment” and “we can’t manage your problem”, so I just got up and left. They were afraid.

 

It makes you feel worse when it’s a medical professional showing such prejudice

 

In the end I went to a fourth one and I told him I had hepatitis and he accepted me as a patient. Which is ridiculous, because hepatitis is more easily transmissible than HIV, but they are not so scared of it. Even with hepatitis, they cover themselves in glasses and masks, like they are going on some kind of expedition, but they do it. It makes you feel awful because of what they think of people with HIV.

 

They have clear infection protocols already but it’s just an irrational fear

 

It makes you feel worse when it’s a medical professional showing such prejudice. They should know better than ordinary people, so it’s more upsetting. They have clear infection protocols already but it’s just an irrational fear.

 

In every country, the biggest number of complaints about discriminatory healthcare are about dentists

 

It’s a particular issue for older people, we have more problems with our teeth. I’m involved in work on HIV and ageing at the moment and in every country, the biggest number of complaints about discriminatory healthcare are about dentists. So now, my association is trying to work with the Ministry of Health and with dentist associations to try and improve understanding. We have to bring them up to date – those of us who have our HIV controlled by treatment pose no risk, but if they had proper infection control for every patient, they wouldn’t even have to think about it.

 

If they had proper infection control for every patient, they wouldn’t even have to think about it