An HIV positive Georgia woman who filed a complaint against a plastic surgery clinic with the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for denying her request for a plastic surgery procedure has reached an agreement with the clinic. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia found that Advanced Plastic Surgery Solutions in Duluth, Georgia, had violated the American With Disabilities Act when they refused to even see her for an initial consultation once she revealed she is HIV positive over the phone.
According to the agreement, when the woman attempted to schedule a consultation in September 2013, she spoke to a third-party call center employee, who upon hearing of her HIV status, told the complainant that plastic surgeon Andrew Jimerson, MD, would not perform surgery on her because she has HIV. The woman then went on to contact Dr. Jimerson’s office directly to ask that the doctor reconsider the denial, and was rejected again by an employee at the center. She then sent an email asking the surgeon to reconsider and received an email reply by another APSS employee who stated again that the Dr. Jimerson would not perform the surgery because she had HIV.
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Patients with HIV should not have an issue undergoing aesthetic surgery if they meet all of the necessary criteria. “HIV has become more treatable due to new drug therapies,” says Northbrook, IL, plastic surgeon Benjamin Schlechter, MD, who says he has performed surgery on an HIV positive patient in the past. “Patients with HIV seeking cosmetic procedures should have the same rights to a procedure as a patient without HIV. Prior to undergoing a procedure, an HIV positive patient should have the appropriate blood work performed to assess their blood count, be in good health and have medical clearance from their medical doctor.”
The United States Attorney’s Office determined that APSS discriminated against the complainant by denying her service on the basis of her HIV, a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits healthcare providers from denying services to others based on their disability. The terms of the settlement include a $25,000 ruling to pay the complainant for emotional distress and pain and suffering, a $10,000 civil penalty and new policies and HIV/AIDS and discrimination training for APSS and its staff.
Although HIV positive patients should not be denied an initial consultation, La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD, says its important to remember there may be times when a surgeon has to use past experience and best judgement to decide if a procedure is right for a patient with unique needs. “There may be different reasons a physician is uncomfortable performing a specific surgery on any particular patient, including a higher potential risk of complications like infection. In that case, they may refer the patient to someone else. But typically, an HIV positive patient who has clearance from his or her physician, a low viral load and high T-cell counts, may be a candidate to undergo cosmetic surgical procedures. Today’s drugs for HIV are better than they were in the past, and patients are now often leading long, normal lives, so we are seeing many more of them seeking aesthetic surgery now.”
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