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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 23
Man denied HIV treatment because he is Gay, suit says
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Man denied HIV treatment because he is Gay, suit says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Gay man is suing a Catholic hospital in New Jersey for denying him necessary HIV medications because of his sexual orientation.

Joao Simoes says he was admitted to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in August 2011, but 'requests for his lifesaving medication were not honored' and his sister was denied visitation rights.

Trinitas describes itself as a 'Catholic community teaching hospital sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in partnership with Elizabethtown Healthcare Foundation.'

'At Trinitas Regional Medical Center we dedicate ourselves to God's healing mission,' the hospital's website says. 'We strive to provide excellent, compassionate health care to the people and communities we serve, including those among us who are poor and vulnerable.'

Simoes was confined to the hospital's mental health ward for three days without medical attention before he was allowed to call his personal physician, he said in court documents. His sister was present at the hospital but was not allowed to see him.

Simoes said he was not given his HIV meds even though he told doctors he was HIV-positive when he was admitted. In all, he missed five doses of his medication, he says.

The complaint, filed June 1, says Simoes was specifically targeted because of his sexual orientation.

According to the complaint, Dr. Susan V. Borga questioned Simoes after he was admitted to Trinitas. He revealed to her that he was HIV-positive.

She then asked how he got HIV.

'I got it from unprotected sex,' Simoes responded.

Then, the complaint says, 'Dr. Borga closed the plaintiff's file, put it down and looked at plaintiff with disgust on her face and asked, coldly, 'Is that from sex with men?'

Simoes says he responded affirmatively and that 'immediately after hearing this, Dr. Borga proceeded to exit the room.'

After this exchange, no nurse or doctor came to see Simoes for three days, the complaint says.

When he was finally allowed to call his personal physician, Simoes found that his doctor had previously spoken with Borga about his condition.

'You must be Gay too, if you're his doctor,' she reportedly told Simoes' doctor.

'Additionally, apparently realizing that plaintiff's doctor had an accent, Dr. Borga exclaimed, 'What, do you need a translator?' to which plaintiff's doctor again responded that Dr. Borga needed to give plaintiff his HIV medication,' the complaint states.

'Dr. Borga responded to plaintiff's doctor by stating, 'This is what he gets for going against God's will,' and hung up the phone on plaintiff's doctor.'

Simoes still had not been given any HIV meds, although he had requested them and his doctor had instructed Dr. Borga to administer them. It was only after Simoes saw his sister leave meds for him that nurses finally relented and gave him his medication.

'Plaintiff witnessed his sister leave his medication with the nurses' station and it was not until this time that the nurses, seeing that the plaintiff had witnessed his sister give his medication to the nurses, that the nurses eventually gave plaintiff his medication,' the complaint states.

Simoes is seeking punitive damages from the hospital for discriminating against him on the basis of his sexual orientation, which is illegal under New Jersey law.

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