9 September 2009

South Africa: HIV Patients Say They Are Humiliated At Du Noon Clinic

HIV positive people using the Du Noon Clinic have complained that they are being discriminated against by nurses, who they accuse of not protecting their right to confidentiality in front of other patients.

While medical practitioners are supposed to keep patient information confidential and divulge it only with the permission of the patient - except when the law requires otherwise - patients using the City-run Du Noon Clinic allege this does not always happen.

One patient, who said she had been diagnosed with HIV in 2005, said going to fetch her ARV medication or receive counseling at the clinic was a traumatic experience.The woman, aged 24, who did not want to be named because of her status, alleged a nurse would come to the reception and shout out that those who had HIV/Aids or had come to find out the result of tests should go to Room 2 in the clinic.

She alleged that the nurse would shout loudly at these patients to follow her, meaning that all the other patients would know that these people were at the clinic because of HIV/Aids.

She said as a result when she met people in the streets who had been at the clinic she felt like they knew her status.

"It's not comfortable," she said, adding that it was not possible to go to a clinic outside of Du Noon because of the cost of transport.

"Some HIV/Aids patients are scared to come to the clinic because everyone is likely to know that we are positive and start shunning us," she said.

Another Du Noon resident, Pet Mbangula said he had gone to the clinic for a check-up and seen a nurse telling a patient, in front of other patients, that their test had come back positive.

"I have seen people being humiliated and nurses shouting and disclosing secrets," he said.

Another Du Noon resident, who did not want to be named, said she had gone to the clinic last week to seek medication for her two-year-old son.

She alleged there was no privacy for HIV/Aids patients and that she heard a nurse shouting to patients that "if you are coming for HIV/Aids treatment you must come this side".

"They just disclose other people's privacy in front of everyone. It's not nice," she alleged.

"They take patients for granted. Another woman came for an HIV test and was told in public that she was lucky she didn't have the virus," said the woman.

City of Cape Town executive director of health Ivan Bromfield said if people had specific allegations they should provide exact details and submit them to the City to be properly investigated.

He said it was not possible to respond to allegations. If there were complaints then details needed to be submitted and his department would investigate, he said.

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