Tuesday, 3 December 2013

"Many medical professionals and hospital staff are prejudiced against HIV-positive people"

A young AIDS nurse at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center was forced to break up with her boyfriend when the young man’s parents found out about her job.
“They were scared of her job and possible risk to her and to the family,” said Dr Lu Hongzhou, director of Shanghai AIDS Treatment Expert Group. He is vice president of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, a professional infectious disease hospital.
He told Shanghai Daily that the nurse’s sad story of thwarted love, ignorance and cruel prejudice prompted the hospital to make a micro move about the case.
“We hope to promote education among the public and help medical staff working in AIDS prevention and control get more respect and understanding,” the doctor said.
But many medical professionals and hospital staff are also prejudiced against HIV-positive people and AIDS patients, Lu said.
Hospitals — places where HIV-positive people and AIDS patients are supposed to receive help and compassion — are actually filled with fear and discrimination, according to doctors, nurses, patients and activists.
A big first step in reducing prejudice against HIV-AIDs-affected people is education among medical professionals who come into increasing contact with patients and their families in hospitals.
AIDS is a chronic, infectious disease not easily transmitted. Effective treatment is available. HIV-positive people can lead normal lives.
“Still there is so much prejudice and fear about the disease and people with the disease,” said Dr Lu who sees more and more outpatients who are HIV-positive or who have developed AIDS. Most contract the virus through unprotected sex.
They turn to the hospital, but they often encounter bias, he said.
“Like ordinary people, medical staff in many comprehensive hospitals have prejudice against HIV-AIDs people,” Lu said. “Many doctors and nurses working in AIDS departments don’t tell others about their job for fear of prejudice.”
Clinical staff need more education and training both to improve their attitudes and their diagnostic and treatment skills.
“Through such training, they can quickly diagnose people with HIV-AIDs and give timely treatment,” Lu said. Many people with AIDS are not aware they are infected and seek treatment for symptoms at comprehensive hospitals, where professionals don’t test for HIV-AIDs, he added.
“Understanding AIDS is the basis for reducing prejudice. We are seeing AIDS patients every day and because we know the disease, we don’t fear it,” Lu said, while acknowledging that most clinical and other hospital staff need more education.
Around 90 percent of all HIV-positive people and AIDS patients are infected through unprotected sex, Lu said.
“Among these patients, the number infected through homosexual behavior is rising and this must attract the attention of both health authorities and the public,” he said.
“Actually, homosexuals usually have better knowledge about AIDS prevention, but many of them still adopt risky sexual behavior,” Lu said. “Understanding must lead to motivation and behavior change.”
The government and society have invested heavily in FAIDS education in recent years, while the number of HIV infections is still rising, Lu said.“Education should be reevaluated and improved.” He said that sex education about sexual orientation should be provided in middle school because sexual orientation is usually established in those years. While genetics plays a role, influence of family, friends and society also contribute to the result. “Around 1 percent of the population is homosexual,” Lu pointed out that the number of gay organizations, support groups, clubs and bars is rising quickly. This should alert people involved in AIDS education and management, he said.
AIDS treatment in China is on par with that in developed countries and carriers can live normal lives, work and marry like other people if they receive proper treatment, Lu said.
“Their life expectancy can be the same as that of non-infected people if the virus is controlled.”
Source: Shanghai Daily

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