Latest news regarding Eastern Cape Health regards the MEC of the department discovering a separate entrance for HIV-positive patients at the Sundays River Valley Hospital yesterday. Enraged, he ordered it to be locked and never opened again.
The South African Constitution and Bill of Rights proclaims “everyone is equal before the law”. This was written such as to right the wrongs of our country’s past, where discrimination based upon sex, race and disability was rife.
By that sentiment, making patients with a specific diagnosis enter through a separate entrance is unconstitutional.
From experience I know that the public health sector is overloaded and has severe staff shortages. I also know that it was probably in the name of efficiency and not of discrimination that this hospital started their “separate entrance” policy.
However, I struggle to understand how the idea of separate entrances did not ring a very loud warning bell in their ears this early after Apartheid, where separate entrances and indeed separate public amenities were at the order of the day.
I have seen clinics in the Western Cape where HIV-patients line-up in a different queue for their ARVs. They enter through the same door, but once inside, everyone can guess their status.
This should also be considered unacceptable. In truth, there is still a stigma attached to HIV and AIDS. It should not be that way, but it is.
People are still ousted by their communities and families if they are found to be HIV-positive and in light of that, health care workers must respect their need for privacy.