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Gay, HIV patient denied medication, visitors ‘for going against God’s will’

By Chris Frye| Courthouse News Service
Saturday, June 2, 2012
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ELIZABETH, N.J. — A gay HIV-positive man says in court that a hospital denied him treatment and visitors, as the doctor remarked, “This is what he gets for going against God’s will.”

Joao Simoes sued Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Union County Superior Court. He says that the hospital admitted him in August 2011, but that “requests for his lifesaving medication were not honored,” and his sister was denied visitation rights.

Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, N.J.

Susan V. Borja, M.D., from the Department of Behavioral Health and Psychiatry, allegedly approached Simoes while he was confined to the hospital’s mental health wing. Borja is not named as a defendant.

Simoes says Borja was unfazed when another patient told her that he had just gotten out of prison, where he served time for murder. But her reaction was allegedly different when Simoes said that he did not work because he planned to go back to school and because of his HIV status.

Borja then allegedly asked Simoes how he got HIV, to which he responded, “I got it from unprotected sex.”

The complaint then says that “Dr. Borja 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. Borja proceeded to exit the room.”

After this consultation, no nurse or doctor came to see Simoes, even though he told them that he needed to take his HIV medication, according to the complaint.

When the hospital finally permitted Simoes to call his personal physician on the third day of his stay, he learned that the doctor had already spoken with Borja about Simoes’ medication, according to the complaint.

Borja allegedly responded: “You must be gay, too, if you’re his doctor.”

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

“Dr. Borja 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 says his sister had been at the hospital when he checked in, but the hospital refused to let her visit.

When the sister came to the hospital again on the day Simoes spoke with his personal physician, she brought her brother’s 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.

The hospital’s conduct allegedly caused Simoes to miss five doses of his medication.

Simoes seeks punitive damages for discrimination. He is represented by Kevin Costello with Costello & Mains of Mount Laurel, N.J.

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