Exclusive: HIV+ Man Crowdfunds Legal Challenge After Being 'Refused Appointment' - RightsInfo

Exclusive: HIV+ Man Crowdfunds Legal Challenge After Being ‘Refused Appointment’

A man who says his dentist refused to see him because of his HIV status is now crowdfunding a legal challenge under the Equality Act.

Mark*, who was diagnosed in 2012, told RightsInfo that his initial reaction of “disappointment” soon turned to “anger” after being told, in front of other patients, he could only be seen at the end of the working day.

“I was diagnosed in 2012 and really I live a normal life,” he explained. “I don’t let anything bother me, but I guess that it was the first time I’ve been discriminated against. I was a bit in shock, to be honest, and it’s only around the corner from where I live.”

‘It’s the First Time I’ve Been Discriminated Against”

Image Credit: Pixabay

Mark says he had gone to register at a new practice in Northampton in January 2017 and filled out the required medical forms but was then “called around the corner by the dental nurse”.

“I was basically told because I’d declared that I had HIV, they wouldn’t be able to see me until the last appointment of the day, because it was their practice policy.

The fact that they did it in an open corridor as well, rather than take me into a room… I was in shock.

“I work in logistics and if I have a policy in place it has to be a written document. I’ve asked them for this policy but they’ve been unable to provide me with it.

“The fact that they did it, in an open corridor as well, rather than take me into a room, wasn’t very confidential. You can’t go around treating people like that,” he added, explaining his diagnosis was overheard by strangers.

‘It’s Been Playing on My Mind… It’s Been Very Hard’

Image Credit: Pexels

During the past year, Mark has successfully upheld a complaint with NHS England that the practice is unlawful and discriminatory, but is now bringing a challenge under the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act specifically protects people with HIV from discrimination when accessing healthcare, saying they cannot be refused treatment due to their condition.

After initially being forced to represent himself, the 34-year-old is now working with Lorna Barron of Deighton Pierce Glynn in a bid to help tackle the stigma around HIV.

“The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone with one of the nine protected characteristics under the Act,” adds Lorna. “People living with HIV are automatically protected against disability discrimination, without having to prove that it has a substantial and long-term effect on their day-to-day activities.”

It’s been quite stressful and playing on my mind, at times it’s been very hard

“It has been quite stressful and playing on my mind, at times it’s been very hard,” he explained.

“I hope, in the first instance, my dentist won’t ever try this again with another patient but I’m hoping in the wider sector there might be a message sent out there – it should be universal standards for all.”

Protection From the Equality Act

Image Credit: The Terrence Higgins Trust

The Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity which supports those living with HIV, states that dental care is especially important for people diagnosed with the condition, as it can put them at a higher risk of oral problems.

It is both shocking and sad that cases like these are still not uncommon within medical settings

Ian Green, Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust

However, they stress that there are no reasons why someone should be treated differently while at the dentist, as standard sterilisation procedures are designed to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases.

In a statement to RightsInfo, Ian Green, Chief Executive of the charity added: “It’s both shocking and sad that cases like these are still not uncommon within medical settings, and it’s crucial that we continue to challenge them to combat stigma, to ensure people living with HIV don’t experience unfair treatment when accessing services.

“We absolutely support this case, and all efforts to ensure that people living with HIV are treated equally, with dignity and respect when visiting the dentist or taking part in any other kind of medical procedure.”

Mark must now raise £4,000 by March 23 to allow his solicitors to agree to stay his case so that is not struck out, as well as to negotiate with the dentist’s solicitors and pay any court fees.

So far, he’s already raised more than a quarter of his target, and has pledged to donate any surplus to the Access to Justice Foundation to help avoid others being forced to represent themselves in court.

You can see more details of Mark’s story on his crowdfunder page.

* Name changed to protect anonymity. Featured Stock Image: Pixabay

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About the Author

Jem Collins

Strategic Impact Director
Jem is the Strategic Impact Director for RightsInfo, working on increasing our reach across the UK and measuring our impact. Previously she was the News and Social Media Editor. She is also passionate about helping young people into the media and runs Journo Resources, a start-up which helps young people into the media, as well as serving as a trustee of the Student Publication Association. She is also one of the co-founders of The Second Source, a group to help end harassment in the media. Email Jem View all posts by Jem Collins.
Exclusive: HIV+ Man Crowdfunds Legal Challenge After Being ‘Refused Appointment’
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