Health workers with attitude

A GAY man who went for a routine HIV test in the Johannesburg CBD was told by a doctor to remember “Sodom and Gomorrah” and that “the mouth is meant for eating only”.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the man shared his story in a group discussion at a health cafe at Wits recently. The health café was held to educate media practitioners on writing correctly about issues surrounding HIV. 

“I don’t know the name of the clinic but it’s in the Johannesburg CBD inside Carlton Centre,” the man said. While waiting for the results, he asked the doctor about the risks of contracting HIV through oral sex.

“He [the doctor] giggled and asked if I was a Christian. I said yes and that I believed in God. And then he said that I would remember then what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. I was shocked. He told me that people back then were behaving like that. That’s why God burnt the town. He told me that the mouth is meant for eating only. I was totally taken aback by this.”

During the discussions, journalists from different media houses mentioned that they were reluctant to get tested because of the “bad attitude” displayed by nurses and doctors in conducting tests.

Another journalist,  who identified himself only as Thabo, said he had also gone to a clinic for an HIV test and the nurse on duty passed a snide remark, suggesting that he had come for a test because he had been having unprotected sex.

“She then asked me to take out my penis so that she could see if there was evidence of a disease.  She looked at it and told me that I was fine.”

Some women in the group complained they had been subjected to HIV tests without their consent while pregnant.

Dr Sindi Van Zyl, who specialises in HIV with Anova, encouraged patients to know their rights in the face of violation by medical personnel and overcome all barriers by getting tested for HIV. She said “angry nurses” intimidated men from clinics, but they should just go and get tested anyway.

Van Zyl added that foreigners should be able to access anti-retroviral drugs. A memo was passed in 2008 to this effect.

Melissa Meyer, HIV and AIDS media project manager with Anova, said patients should not just accept bad treatment from nurses and doctors.  “The same way you go to a restaurant and say: ‘This is not what I ordered,’ is the same way you should react when you get bad service at clinics.”

The HIV and AIDS Act of 2006 stipulates that “an HIV test on another person shall not be undertaken, except with the informed consent of the other person”.