Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"South Korean patients have nowhere to go as world gathers to discuss HIV/AIDS"

On July 2 the Korea Times reported on this sad state of affairs:
Dozens of AIDS patients on the brink of death are struggling to find places to receive care after being told to leave the nation's only care center for dying AIDS patients, according to a rights activist.

According to HIV/AIDS Human Rights Nanuri, the patients were told to leave the care center, Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital, earlier this year because it was deprived of a license following alleged violations of human rights.

One patient was raped in 2011. In August of last year, a new patient died 13 days after arriving. The investigation found that the care center staff refused the patient's request for medical attention. Her death attracted media coverage which eventually led to the uncovering of years of human rights abuse.
Benjamin Wagner and Kwon Mi-ran have written an article about this titled "South Korean patients have nowhere to go as world gathers to discuss HIV/AIDS." An excerpt:
As experts gather in Melbourne this week for the world’s largest conference dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS and associated stigma and discrimination, the patients of Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital in Seoul are caught in a desperate limbo.
Following shocking abuse by hospital staff that culminated in the rape of one patient and death of another, the Korea Centers for Disease Control stripped the center of its license. But with the KCDC failing to provide a suitable alternative facility to what is the only long-term care center for AIDS sufferers in the country, more than 30 patients now have nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, ten other patients have been transferred to the National Police Hospital where they report yet more neglect and being denied necessary treatment and care.

The KCDC’s failure to rectify the situation marks its second betrayal of patients after it ignored allegations of mistreatment at Sudong first raised in 2011. Residents of Sudong have reported being denied human contact and not being asked about their condition by a medical professional even once. Some had their requests to be discharged ignored because the hospital insisted on obtaining permission of family members with whom patients had long lost contact. [...]

Shamefully, the plight of the patients at Sudong is not an isolated case of mistreatment of those living with HIV/AIDS in South Korea. In a modern country with world class medical facilities and easy access to antiretroviral therapy, there is no reason why people with HIV/AIDS should not be able to live long, comfortable and productive lives. In fact, a recent study found that some people living with HIV in the United States, particularly those diagnosed and treated before their CD4 counts fell below 350 cells/mm3, “now have life expectancies equal to or even higher than the US general population.”

But not in South Korea where, despite the country’s wealth and capacity for early diagnosis and effective treatment, governmental policies and prevailing societal prejudice conspire to destroy the dignity and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS and drag the nation back to the 1980s where an HIV positive diagnosis was a death sentence.

Today in Korea, discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is still so extreme that public and private hospitals routinely refuse to treat them. And the very few that do often segregate them from other patients, forcing them to shower and dine in separate areas, pandering to stigma and the mistaken belief that people with HIV/AIDS can easily infect those around them even though Korean medical professionals know this isn’t true.

The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is so intense in South Korea that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has estimated that Koreans living with HIV are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, which already has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
The rest of the article can be read here.

1 comment:

K said...

Thank you, Matt and Ben et al. Very interesting.