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Homes refuse HIV/AIDS patients

PORTUGUESE SOCIAL SECURITY has received a number of complaints that residential care homes are turning away patients suffering from HIV and AIDS.

The revelation was made on Sunday by the President of the Social Security Institute (Instituto de Segurança Social-ISS), Edmundo Martinho who added that the complaints “had been substantiated”.

Three particular institutions, all with state contracts, turned away elderly residents who were simply HIV positive and not even ill with an AIDS-defining illness.

Various HIV support associations, including the Liga Portuguesa Contra a SIDA (LPCS) and Abraço, have confirmed and shown dismay at the findings which they claim is out-and-out discrimination and against the law.

With improved modern combination therapies, HIV is increasingly a manageable condition like diabetes with patients expected to live fairly normal lives if they take the protease inhibitors, which slows virus replication, as prescribed. This means that in the Western world, people who became infected with HIV in the late 1980s and early 1990s are by and large living healthy lives and more are reaching retirement age in reasonably good health.

Prior to 1996, when the drugs became available, the average life expectancy with HIV/AIDS from infection to death was around 10 years.

In all the residential care home cases, the elderly infected with HIV only succeeded in gaining a place after considerable pressure from the authorities.

“We are facing a new reality which has brought with it new problems. People are living with HIV longer and reaching advanced ages, but Portuguese society, its fears and prejudices, unfortunately hasn’t caught up with the reality,” said Helena Silveirinha of the ISS.

“The problem is that the owners, managers and staff at many residential care homes simply don’t know how to deal with patients with HIV and there’s still a considerable stigma in Portugal,” agreed Margarida Martins, President of Abraço.

Sílvia Rocha of the Liga Portuguesa Contra a Sida, an HIV support group, said: “Getting people into residential care homes is already difficult in itself because there are few places, and it’s even more difficult for HIV positive patients.”

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