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15 June, 2024
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Woman’s letter probes AIDS phobia in Cyprus

Cypriot advocate for people living with HIV says discrimination cases piling up, calls for investigation


A woman living with HIV in Cyprus has gone public with her ordeal after months of being given the runaround by officials, while shocking details about a recent case include GESY doctors refusing to treat a patient because they had “no experience with her condition.”

According to Philenews, a woman living with HIV who describes herself as a lawful and permanent resident of the Republic of Cyprus, has sent a letter to local media after seven months of getting no answers from officials about her grievances.

In a letter to the attorney general, the woman accused doctors within the GESY network, the state’s healthcare insurance system, of refusing to treat her back in January for a medical emergency because of AIDS phobia.

“Having a medical issue that required immediate medical intervention, I sought out doctors within GESY and was hugely disappointed in confirming and facing the biggest stigma attached to a person living with HIV,” it was said in the letter.

The woman went on to say that she never had such bad experience in the days before GESY was established, pointing out that she used to go to a Larnaca General Hospital where people living with HIV would be treated with enthusiasm and care “without any form of discrimination whatsoever.”

But after GESY started last year, says the woman - a beneficiary of the tax-funded system, chose to visit a clinic within the network for a gynecological issue where she was refused treatment.

Michaelidou told Knews many cases were piling up and she would not give up until she gets all the answers, adding 'it’s so sad that we are still having to deal with narrow minds, and for what?'

The president of HIV/AIDS Support Center (KYFA), Stella Michaelidou, was a guest on state radio Wednesday morning where she gave information about another incident on Sunday.

Michaelidou said the family of a woman living with HIV had called her up and asked her to go to a medical clinic in Limassol. Doctors at the private clinic were saying the medical director had instructed them not to treat the patient, whose CT scan results discovered internal bleeding and a large contusion.

“The doctor on duty, without knowing my role in all of this, told me he had checked with the administration and was forbidden to treat the wounded person,” Michaelidou said, adding that there was a four hour delay intended to push the family to leave. Reports said the clinic had wanted the patient to go to Larnaca for treatment.

The KYFA president took down notes to alert officials about the incident, while she said the patient was later transported to another GESY clinic outside Limassol where she got the care she needed and remained for 48-hour monitoring.

“She was sitting in a wheelchair, blood on her skin had dried up, she was in a state of shock and she was trembling,” Michaelidou cried out.

Reports said the woman in the first case had written to government and state officials last February, including the President and Attorney General, the former health minister, as well as police chief, Cyprus Medical Association, and parliament.

She said she was asked by the attorney general’s office to take her case to GESY’s commissioner and she sent a letter on the same day.

But officials said the case is under investigation and no further details could be given.

“This is unacceptable, it is inhumane. I am very angry. It is not okay in European Cyprus to have doctors refusing treatment because she was being frank with them to say she was positive” the KYFA president said.

Michaelidou told Knews there were many cases piling up and she would not give up until she gets all the answers. She further said she was calling on the media to follow the story, adding “it’s so sad that we are still having to deal with narrow minds, and for what?”

“I will call on the health minister to order an investigation. I will send letters everywhere,” she said.

AIDS phobia, the irrational fear of getting infected with HIV, can persist in people despite evidence to the contrary.

In Cyprus, critics say exaggerated or antiquated fears of HIV transmission still persist, while medical experts suggest healthcare workers are much more likely to contract HIV through their own personal behavior than infection through occupational exposure.

Cyprus  |  Limassol  |  Larnaca  |  HIV  |  AIDS  |  Michaelidou  |  KYFA  |  discrimination

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