Discrimination in hospitals, medical facilities vs persons with HIV

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I went to a dermatological clinic (derma) in a known hospital in Quezon City to have the warts in my hand removed. I know I had to disclose to the doctor my HIV status since I may bleed, and we may encounter difficulty because of that. The doctor instructed me to obtain clearance in order for us to set an appointment. I was cleared by my physician who told me that there will not be problems in bleeding.

I then called the derma for an appointment. I was startled when I learned that the derma consultant suddenly refused to render services to me because allegedly their clinic has no “sterilization facility,” which she did not disclose to me the first time I visited the clinic and disclosed my status. She did not even refer me to other professionals and/or clinics for my concerns. I felt really bad. Do I have an action against the doctor or the clinic as a person with HIV?
Sincerely yours,
Azumi

Dear Azumi,
Section 40 of Republic Act (RA) 8504 (Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act) clearly states:
“Sec. 40. Discrimination in hospitals and health institutions. — No person shall be denied health care service or be charged with a higher fee on account of actual, perceived or suspected HIV status.”

In its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), it is further provided:


“Sec. 51. Discrimination in Hospitals and Health Institutions- No hospital or other health institution shall deny access to health care services to a PLWHA or those perceived or suspected to be HIV-infected, nor charge the said persons higher fees. Access to health services must be on an equal basis for all people, regardless of perceived, suspected or actual HIV status. Refusal to admit a person to a hospital or health care facility and refusal to provide health care or perform health services to a person in a hospital or health care facility on the basis of perceived, suspected or actual HIV status are prohibited acts” (Rule 8).

Hence, if manifestly, the sudden refusal of the clinic or the doctor is caused by your condition, you may seek redress by filing the appropriate action under the law enforcing the above-stated provisions.

The penalties that may be meted out shall include:

“Sec. 53. Penalties for Discriminatory Acts and Policies – All discriminatory acts and policies referred to in Secs. 46 to 52 of this IRR and in accordance with RA 8504 shall be punishable with a penalty of:

a. Imprisonment for six (6) months to four (4) years; and

b. A fine not exceeding Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00).
“In addition, licenses or permits of schools, hospitals and other institutions found guilty of committing said discriminatory acts and policies shall be revoked.” (Id.)

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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