A dentist in Austria has been fined after she refused to treat a woman because she was HIV-positive.
The dentist, whose identity was not disclosed, will have to pay EUR 1,500 (GBP 1,312) in damages for discriminating against the patient, only identified as D., in the city of Vienna, the Austrian capital.
The Doebling District Court reportedly ruled in favour of the patient after it was demonstrated that the dental practitioner had violated the Austrian Federal Disability Equality Act (BGStG).
D. had reportedly appeared at a scheduled appointment at the clinic and was initially given a standardised questionnaire where she declared she was HIV-positive.
But she then reportedly spent the whole day in the waiting room after the practitioner refused to treat her, and only agreed to conduct the check at the end of her shift.
The patient said in a statement obtained by Newsflash from Aids Hilfe Wien: “I contacted the Vienna Aids Help Centre and the Litigation Association because I didn’t want to accept the discrimination.
“At a dentist’s appointment, I was refused treatment due to the HIV infection.
“The whole situation was humiliating and stigmatising. As a patient, I expect to be treated with respect and treated like everyone else.”
Following the verdict, the Head of the Legal Enforcement team at the Austrian Litigation Association Theresa Hammer said: “I am very pleased about the positive judgment with which the court awarded our plaintiff full damages.
“People with HIV should not be denied dental treatment because of their infection.
“A treatment appointment at the end of the day for allegedly necessary hygienic reasons is also discriminatory.
“Unfortunately, HIV-positive people experience discrimination in healthcare services time and time again.
“You can defend yourself against this, if necessary in court, as our client showed.”
The Austrian Litigation Association is an umbrella organisation dedicated to combating discrimination on the grounds of sex, gender, ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, sexual orientation and age.
Comprised of 13 NGOs, the association was founded in 2004.
Legal assistant at Aids Hilfe Wien and also a board member of the Litigation Association Barbara Murero-Holzbauer added: “In our consultations, we hear again and again that HIV-positive people are denied dental treatment with reference to supposed hygiene standards.
“This is often based on prejudices and wrong or outdated information.
“For example, HIV-positive people whose viral load cannot be detected due to modern medicines are not contagious at all.
“Conversely, the AIDS virus is not visible, which is why all patients must be treated in such a way that transmission – even with other far more contagious infections – is ruled out.
“HIV is now easily treatable, but unfortunately those affected still often suffer from stigmatisation and discrimination.”
The dentist has reportedly appealed the verdict at the Vienna District Court.
The association’s authorities said they were confident that the latter court will confirm the judgement.