HIV-positive British tourist is told to leave his hotel in Cyprus after medical centre tipped off management about his condition and advised them to…

  • British tourist’s ordeal started when he fell over and suffered a slight injury
  • Tour operator took him to private clinic in coastal resort of Paphos, Cyprus
  • Told medics he was HIV positive then returned to hotel only to be told he could no longer stay there
  • A support group claims the clinic advised the hotel to ‘disinfect’ his room

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A British holidaymaker in Cyprus was in ‘fear and shock’ after he was allegedly asked to leave his hotel – which it is claimed was tipped off by a private clinic that he was HIV positive. His ordeal began at the beginning of the month when he fell over and suffered a slight injury after becoming dizzy. His tour operator arranged for him to be taken to a private clinic in the coastal resort of Paphos, which is popular with British tourists and expats.

The British holidaymaker told a private clinic in Paphos (pictured), Cyprus that he was HIV positive – then returned to his hotel only to be told he would no longer be allowed to stay there (file picture)

The man, who is thought to be middle-aged and has not been named, told the clinic’s staff he was HIV positive and his injury was tended to. But, to his dismay, when he returned to his hotel he was allegedly told he could no longer stay there.

‘He was in fear, in shock, and he was also feeling dizzy,’ said Stella Michaelidou, the head of the board of the HIV/AIDS Support Centre, KYFA, a non-government organisation run by volunteers.

‘A doctor from the clinic called the hotel where the injured man was staying and informed them of his condition. This is a breach of medical confidentiality. It is strictly forbidden,’ she said.

‘The clinic informed the hotel to burn the sheets and the bedspread and to disinfect the room. That’s what the tour operator told me,’ Mihaelidou said.

She said the incident was unprecedented in Cyprus. ‘I’ve been working at KYFA as a volunteer since 1994 and this is the first time I’ve come across such a thing.’

She added, ‘It’s like in the 80s before we knew what HIV was. It’s ignorance and we have to solve this You may expect to find this ignorance in an ordinary person, but in a doctor?’

The island’s health ministry and the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) have launched investigations into the claims. So too has the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, Michaelidou said. The island’s health ministry and the Cyprus Medical Association have launched investigations into the claims (file picture)

While the man’s tour operator was trying to find another hotel for him to stay at, word got out of his condition and several hotels in the area also allegedly refused to host him. The man, who has since returned to Britain, was also refused treatment by other private clinics in the area to which he and his tour operator had gone to for help after he started feeling unwell again.

‘He was first taken to the Paphos General Hospital where they took his blood pressure and released him because they said he did not need to be admitted,’ Michaelidou said.

‘But because he continued to feel dizzy, the tour operator tried to take him to several private practices where he was turned away.’

At some point, the tourist had lost his HIV medication. Michaelidou contacted the head of a specialized HIV clinic at Larnaca General Hospital, Dr Ioannis Demetriades, to help. The public sector doctor got in touch with the British High Commission to get the correct prescription for the medication from the man’s doctors in England.

‘I think he was living five or six days without medication,’ Dr Demetriades, head of the Grigorios Clinic, said. ‘He didn’t have any serious problems as far as I know.’

The tour operator collected the medication from the hospital in Larnaca and delivered it to the tourist in Paphos, some 90 miles away.

‘And the tour operator found a clinic near Paphos where he had a proper investigation by a private doctor,’ Michaelidou said. It was not clear whether the tourist’s original accident was because he had lost his medication. ‘Maybe he’d been too exposed to sun in the morning and at night felt dizzy and fell,’ Michaelidou said. During the tourist’s ordeal, the tour operator was in constant contact with Michaelidou, who later reported the events to the health ministry and the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA).

Neither the hotel nor the clinic have been named because the matter is under investigation. The island’s Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights, Eliza Savvidou, said in a statement: ‘Unfortunately, the elements of the case reveal the deeply rooted, widespread and extremely persistent prejudices surrounding the issue of HIV/AIDS and are based on ignorance and lack of information, even by health professionals.’

Savvidou, who is also the Ombudswoman, added that healthcare professionals in particular had an important role in ensuring the rights of people with HIV. The tour operator collected the tourist’s medication from the hospital in Larnaca (pictured) and delivered it to the tourist in Paphos, some 90 miles away

‘Observing medical confidentiality and providing care without discrimination is a fundamental duty of every health professional and administrative staff members at healthcare providers, both public and private,’ she said. ‘Moreover, respect for human rights of HIV carriers is a basic obligation of the state as a whole.’

She said the alleged behavior of the health professionals being investigated, revealed complete ignorance about the virus and instead had adhered to a stereotype.

‘The circumstances of this case, unfortunately, not only tarnish the image of the involved professionals, but also the image of Cyprus internationally,’ she added.

Savvidou, an independent government official, said a full investigation and disciplinary measures was needed to send a clear message that such behavior would not be tolerated. The Cyprus Hotels Association said it had no information on the case. The head of the association’s Paphos district committee, Themis Filippides, told the Cyprus Mail that as far as he was aware no hotels in the area had turned down the man’s request for a room. He added that he did not believe that any establishment that may have done so was a hotel.

The circumstances of this case tarnish the image of Cyprus internationally

‘We have no such information. According to my information, he did not ask to be taken to any other hotels.

We don’t know the exact details at the moment, but of course if this happened it is reprehensible,’ he said. The health ministry said in an announcement it had requested a report of events and has also asked the Superintendent of private hospitals, Dr Petros Matsas, to launch an investigation into the reports that a medical facility refused hospitalisation to a patient. It also called the CyMA to launch an investigation for allegedly unethical behavior by doctors.

‘As regards the reports that a patient was subjected to unethical and improper conduct at medical centres of the Republic, the health ministry stresses in an unambiguous manner that if such attitudes and behavior exist, they constitute a flagrant violation of medical ethics, medical confidentiality and the due respect to the individual’s personality and personal data,’ the announcement said.

‘Each of us and above all medical and paramedical personnel who perform the service of unrestricted provision of health services to all, without exception, must respect the privacy of every individual.

Actions based on racist attitudes hark back to darker days, they honor no one and have no place in the health care sector or in society,’ the announcement added.

The head of the CyMA’s ethics committee, Dr Vassos Economou, said that the health ministry’s urgings aside, they had already launched an investigation into all claims to establish if there had been unethical behaviour on the part of any doctors.

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