Rights activists yesterday voiced their opposition to a proposal to add special markings on the health insurance cards of people who are HIV positive, as a measure to prevent infection during operations or organ transplants, arguing that this would not only violate patients’ right to privacy, but that it also would not serve the purpose it was intended to.
Following a scandal that broke last weekend in which National Taiwan University Hospital and National Cheng Kung University Hospital failed to identify an HIV-positive organ donor in advance and transplanted his organs into five HIV-negative people, some politicians — such as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) and Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) — have proposed that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bureau should add special marks on the NHI cards of people who are HIV positive to prevent similar incidents.
However, rights activists said that such a measure would not help and would violate HIV and AIDS patients’ privacy.
“There is no connection between safety in organ transplants and adding a special mark on the NHI cards of people who are HIV positive,” Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan secretary-general Lin Yi-hui (林宜慧) told a news conference in Taipei.
“In fact, I think adding the mark may make the situation worse,” she said.
She said that the best way to prevent HIV infection during operations or organ transplants was to follow the standard operational procedures thoroughly, and to check whether a person has HIV at the time of the operation.
“Better training for medical personnel may be a better idea than marking the NHI cards of people who are HIV positive,” she said.
“Having no mark on the NHI card doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have HIV, because the majority of people never go for an HIV test, and being HIV negative at the time when they were tested doesn’t mean that people are not HIV positive at the time of their operations,” Lin said. “Hence, marking the NHI card doesn’t help solve the issue, rather, it may put medical personnel under greater threat.”
Taiwan Lourdes Association secretary-general Hsu Sen-chieh (徐森杰) said it was irresponsible to put the burden of HIV infection prevention on people who are HIV positive.
He added that having the proposed HIV marking on NHI cards may effect patients’ right to regular visits to a doctor.
“According to our studies, as many as 25 percent of patients who identified themselves as HIV positive to medical personnel have been refused medical services,” Hsu said. “So, if their NHI cards are marked, such people may just ‘forget’ to bring their NHI cards along when going to hospital.”
He added that besides better training programs for medical personnel, the government should deliver more accurate information to the general public about HIV/AIDS, and raise public awareness about the diseases.