€10,000 in compensation has been awarded to a HIV positive woman after a dentist refused to treat her, coming to a halt while she was in the dentist chair and already under anaesthetic, after she told him that she had HIV status.
The dentist has also committed to providing a written apology to the woman in question.
Before her appointment for a dental treatment the woman had made her HIV status known to the dental clinic. However, during the procedure, and after she had been given a dose of anaesthetic, the woman was asked by the dentist as to whether she was currently taking medication. She told the dentist that she is taking her HIV medication. He, the dentist, then withdrew his service due to his perceived concerns regarding contamination.
The woman told the hearing: “I felt embarrassed, ashamed and I was really stressed and very anxious. Playing the whole scenario in my head again made me feel a kind of rejection. I went in confident thinking they knew my status and it was okay for them to help me, but after what happened it has had a huge impact on my self-esteem. It took me back to the time when I first found out about my HIV status. The woman added: “I had no idea that what they had done was wrong until after speaking to my doctor. I feel like going to the WRC helped me, as I believe the clinic is now aware that their conduct towards me was wrong. I feel better hoping they will not treat anyone that way, not only because they agreed compensate me, but also because staff will receive awareness training.”
The dental clinic has committed to implement an appropriate company policy that reflects their dedication to equality and will ensure that comparable incidents do not come up in the future. The dental clinic will also carry out equality and diversity, including HIV, training to its full time staff.
The woman said that she will now will also withdraw her discrimination case under the Equal Status Act which she had submitted the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan stated: “Dentists, just like other service providers are obliged to meet the commitments of the Equal Status Acts which protects people against discrimination. The clear message from this settlement is discrimination of this nature is not acceptable and should be challenged.”
HIV Ireland stated: “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Some dentists and dental services continue to refuse treatment to people living with HIV, incorrectly believing that there are special places to treat people who are HIV positive.”