Segregation of HIV infected bodies in Israel
PinkNews has learned that the Israeli Ministry of Health sent out guidelines ordering the dead bodies of people who had HIV AIDS be tagged, segregated and covered in concrete.
The measures stated that people who had HIV AIDS and other infectious diseases should be put in a plastic bag labelled with their status and put in an ambulance separate to anyone else, including health professionals.
The news came after the family of a woman who had been HIV positive were left reeling when they discovered their loved one had been treated differently because of her status.
The grieving family wanted answers on why their relative had been treated differently, only to discover through a court order that it was because of guidelines issued from the health department.
The documents issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health to Chevra Kadisha – the organisation to ensure Jewish people are prepared for burial according to Jewish tradition – instructed them to separate the bodies of people who had HIV or AIDS.
They claimed it was to protect others from catching infectious diseases – appearing to suggest the health department believe HIV can be contracted by air.
The 18-year-old, who has not been named, had died of AIDS related complications.
The family said her body was denied recognition and the same level of treatment as other bodies because she had been HIV positive.
The judge ruled that there had been discrimination in the case, awarding the family 30,000 shekel – equivalent to $7,750 or £6,200.
Special registration of burial is a serious violation of a person’s right to privacy under Israeli law.
The Israeli AIDS Task Force has reacted strongly to the news, telling Israel Hayom, an Israeli newspaper, that the medical information is “completely unfounded” and “causing an intensification of the offensive against the already severe stigmatisation and AIDS patients as the disease may pass into the air.”
A letter sent to the ministry this week by the AIDS Task Force chair, Dr. Yuval Livnat writes to the Prime Health Care Services Prof. Itamar Grotto that: “It is insulting and incorrect to talk about AIDS as a ‘terrible disease’.
“There is no medical justification that ambulance drivers and stretcher bearers should be separated, because there is no risk of contagion.
“Guidelines have caused the resulting hysteria, probably, and unfortunately, indicate the stigma that surrounds the disease without medical justification.”
The Israeli Ministry of Health has denied the guidelines being their official policy.
They say the suggestions were just part of draft proposals and were absolutely not meant to be issued to any organisations.
“A draft of the procedure was transferred by mistake and not the final version.
“Officials working on a procedure relating to the treatment of the bodies of people infected with infectious diseases labels, not just HIV, which includes diseases such as Ebola.”
PinkNews has spoken to a medical expert who said the segregation could be appropriate for bodies with Ebola, as the body is at its most infectious right before death, but they know of no evidence that it’s appropriate for bodies who had HIV.
The man in charge of the health department, Yaakov Litzman, is ultra-orthodox and has previously caused controversy with comments on the LGBT community.
During a February 2016 discussion in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, about Israeli health authorities becoming more sensitive towards LGBT people, Litzman compared the LGBT community to the ‘sinners’ who danced around the Golden Calf.
Campaigners have reached out to the ministry for further explanation, expected next week.