Bangkok Hotel Isolates HIV-Positive Guests, Accused of Discrimination Ahead of XV International AIDS Conference
Thai AIDS advocates on Monday -- just weeks before the XV International AIDS Conference is scheduled to begin in Bangkok, Thailand -- said that Bangkok's Prince Palace hotel during a recent government AIDS workshop separated HIV-positive delegates from other guests, Thailand's Nation reports (Pennapa, Nation, 6/17). The 70 delegates attending a workshop organized by the country's Disease Control Department initially were placed throughout the hotel. However, after determining from some guests' skin lesions that they were HIV-positive, hotel management asked them to stay in separate rooms and eat their meals apart from other guests. They also instructed housekeeping staff to "take precautions," according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/17). A hotel employee who asked not to be named said she segregated the guests for "hygiene reasons," according to the Nation. The woman said that other HIV-negative delegates had requested the arrangements. "Even those who work with HIV/AIDS infected people and know more about the disease are still disgusted with them. How can I trust that [the HIV-positive people] will not spread the virus to other guests?" she asked (Nation, 6/17). Hotel management said it would not have agreed to host the workshop if it had known who was attending, AIDS Access Foundation Director Nimit Tienudom said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. However, revealing the delegates' HIV status would have violated their right to privacy, Nimit said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/17).
Supatta Nakapew, director of the Centre for AIDS Rights, said she was concerned that Thailand could "lose face" if similar discrimination occurs during the International AIDS Conference. About 20,000 delegates are expected to attend the conference, which is scheduled for July 11-16. Thai Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said that although she had not examined the details of the case, the government was considering penalizing hotels that discriminate against HIV-positive guests by banning government agencies from using them for future conferences, according to the Nation (Nation, 6/27). The Prince Palace is not on the list of hotels recommended for the upcoming conference and will not be used to house any delegates, conference organizers said in a statement released on Saturday (Agence France-Presse, 6/20). IAC organizers several months ago told the owners of the recommended conference hotels that they must make condoms available and provide HIV/AIDS education to their staff. In addition, the conference is issuing an informational bulletin to "emphasiz[e] that certain actions, such as the use of latex gloves or the segregation of people living with HIV/AIDS within hotels or dining areas are completely unwarranted," International AIDS Society President and IAC Co-Chair Joep Lange said. The "unfortunate incident underscores the importance of continued public education to eliminate misconceptions about HIV/AIDS that exist not only in Southeast Asia but in many parts of the world," according to the statement (IAC statement, 6/19).
Webcasts and other coverage of the XV International AIDS Conference will be available online at kaisernetwork.org/aids2004. Kaisernetwork.org will serve as the conference's official webcaster.
Additional information on the conference, including online registration, is available at aids2004.org.