Bartholomew takes complaint to UNAIDS
By CAROL MATROO Sunday, July 15 2012
DIRECTOR of the Medical Research Centre (MRC), Professor Courtenay Bartholomew, has written to new UNAIDS executive director, Michael Sidebe, to report the “unbelievable, unethical and unprecedented” malpractice of a certain doctor in his treatment of HIV/Aids patients in TT.
The MRC had complained to the Medical Board about the doctor’s failure to provide the medical files of patients he treated despite numerous requests for them. However, a “preliminary” meeting to deal with the matter has left the MRC even more dissatisfied with the process.
To this end, Bartholomew has written to William Conn, of the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), which assisted TT in combating and limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS, US Ambassador to TT Beatrice Wilkinson-Welters and director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Ernest Massiah, to make sure his claims are widely heard and addressed.
Bartholomew, in his missives, included the medical histories of patients who were treated by the doctor, who held several key positions in the medical field, with details of his treatment and care.
The professor, who has been hugely instrumental in dealing and treating with HIV/AIDS since it became an epidemic, said long before this issue was brought to the forefront, the MRC had seen two patients who were diagnosed and treated for AIDS by the said doctor. However, after being tested at the centre’s lab, it was found they were HIV negative.
In his letter, Bartholomew said a patient who was recently referred to the MRC and had been treated by the doctor for about eight years, had been treated with one antiretroviral drug rather than the recommended triple therapy with three different drugs (triple cocktail).
“He usually treats his patients with one drug only, sometimes two, sometimes none at all,” he said.
Bartholomew said he referred a patient to an AIDS specialist in London since he was mortally ill and feared that the laboratory services at TT hospital would not be able to identify the infection.
The professor said even though he had reported this matter well over a year and a half ago, it has never been addressed by the authorities because the doctor in question was “well connected.”
“I am afraid that your vision of ‘zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS- related deaths’, which you have made the end goal of UNAIDS, as optimistic as it is, will certainly never come to pass with doctors like this and inaction from high sources,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew warned that TT would not be able to stem the spread of resistant viruses with such maltreatment. He said he feared that the 11 patients who were referred to the MRC were just the tip of the iceberg of patients who had been treated by the doctor, and who were now also spreading drug-resistant viruses in TT.