When AIDS was first discovered and little was known about it, that ignorance resulted in a great deal of paranoia, ostracism and cruelty towards AIDS patients.
Now, more than two decades after we have known about AIDS and during which the disease has been studied and treated if not cured, we might be tempted to say that AIDS no longer carries its stigma. But we would be mistaken. A new study shows that AIDS patients continue to be insulted and demeaned by doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who ought to know better. From the article:
Examples include doctors who would not visit a patient’s hospital room, neurologists who avoid looking patients in the eye, and ambulance personnel who madly threw bloodied gloves into the street after learning the injured patient carried the virus.
These instances of stigmatic events are described in the study conducted by Lance S Rintamaki of the University at Buffalo and colleagues. The study participants report several of these events, which include a wide variety of health-care personnel. “Clinicians should have the training and common sense to avoid a lot of these behaviors, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when hearing about nonclinical staff caught up in these events. They’re likely relying on the same stereotypes and misinformation about HIV that are commonplace among the general public, which may lead them to act in fearful and stigmatizing ways toward HIV-positive patients,” says Rintamaki.
This is discouraging news in the year 2008. AIDS patients and their loved ones should be prepared for these reactions and should take special care to insist on proper treatment.