Apology to gay man after HIV gaffe

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 15/10/2012
Liam Taylor
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
LIAM TAYLOR: 'I felt like I was being treated like I was dirty.'

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A gay Christchurch man has received a formal apology after a nurse suggested in front of a busy waiting room he could have HIV.

Liam Taylor, 24, had a root canal at Garden City Dental earlier this year. He was on his way back to work when he received a call from the clinic manager telling him a dental assistant had injured herself on a needle used during his procedure.

Taylor was told he needed to have a blood test to ensure he had not caused the nurse any harm.

At the community lab at St George's Hospital he filled his details out on the incident report.

"I took it back up to the desk and the nurse said I had filled out the wrong section of the form. She said I needed to fill out the ‘source' section, not the ‘recipient' section because I was ‘the source of the HIV or Aids'. I was just totally shocked when she said that."

The nurse retracted the statement after Taylor's boss, who had accompanied him to the lab, expressed her shock. "The nurse then said, ‘sorry, I mean the potential source of HIV or Aids'. "I was so embarrassed. All these people were in the waiting room and she said it loudly . . . and the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘is she just assuming that I have diseases because I'm gay?'.

"Maybe she did think that, that's fine, but keep it to yourself and don't be so unprofessional. I was really mortified and I felt like I was being treated like I was dirty . . . because I'm gay."

Garden City Dental took $150 off the bill after he told them what had happened. Taylor does not have HIV. He received a phone call from a staff member at the lab apologising for the incident.

The head of department for patient services at Canterbury Southern Community Laboratories, Melanie Petrie, said the situation had "been very badly handled" and apologised for Taylor's experience.

"In the first instance, all health practices should have the blood-body exposure forms on them . . . and under no circumstance should any patient details be revealed," she said. Petrie said only a patient's name should be shared in a waiting room.

298 Youth Health Centre founder Sue Bagshaw said she was "appalled" to hear of Taylor's case.

"Unfortunately, this is an all-too-frequent occurrence because there is still that underlying homophobia in our society."

Bagshaw said many of her gay patients had experienced similar incidents.

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Shaun Robinson from the New Zealand Aids Foundation said there was still a "huge stigma" attached to HIV and Aids.

"I'm very concerned that the nurse in question has breached client rights."

- The Press

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