Medical staff diagnosed Anatoly Vityushkin, a man form Saratov, as having the HIV infection. Yet after several months it became clear that Anatoly had not correctly understood the terrible diagnosis.
Anatoly very rarely complained about his health, and, apart from the occasional cold, was the perfect picture of health. Yet having run an incredibly high temperature at 40 degrees for several days, his wife, overcome by worry, called the emergency services.
Anatoly was quickly moved from one hospital to another, where he underwent several analyses but doctors were incapable of diagnosing his illness. After two days he was transferred to a children’s hospital where it was discovered that the 51 year old was suffering from measles.
On the same evening his condition became decidedly worse and Anatoly was transferred to a solitary room where he began to notice that medical staff seemed to avoid contact with him. The following day he was surprised to find specialists from the HIV Centre by his bedside, interested in knowing; had he had taken any drugs, indulged in promiscuous sexual activity or was he a homosexual? Having had all their questions answered in the negative the group then provided him with a medical card.
With trembling hands Anatoly signed the document that stated he was a carrier of HIV, and that he would take full responsibility for ensuring he would not wittingly spread the virus. It took Anatoly two days to muster the courage to tell his wife the devastating news, after which she observed how he appeared like a broken man under such a sentence.
It was left to his wife a little later to tell Anatoly he had tested positive for AIDS. He was unable to comprehend how he could have caught the virus, asserting that he had never had any sexual affairs outside of his marriage.
Olga recounted how her husband became gradually worse with every passing day under the weight of his terrible burden. He could not face going to work, while his managers had tried several times to phone him at home to ask him to explain the reason for his unexpected retirement. Having always been held in high regard, his managers, worried about losing him, were prepared to meet him halfway if only he could offer an explanation.
However Anatoly decided to hide the news from everyone. ‘If I had cancer I would completely understand and accept it,’ said Anatoly. ‘This is a terrible illness, which concerns me, and me alone. Yet at the same time AIDS can seriously harm the people around me.’
Above all he was deeply concerned by the thought that his wife may also be affected and, this time together, they decided they would undergo testing for the virus. After three days, to their great relief, Olga’s tests came back negative. The biggest shock of all, however, came when Anatoly’s tests also proved that he did not carry the virus. Anatoly then had the tests repeated and, again, no signs of the virus were discovered.
Only then did Anatoly recall that, lying next to him in the hospital had been one young man who had died two days later from AIDS. Evidently the doctors had carelessly mixed up the results but categorically refused to acknowledge that they had made a mistake, asserting that they always treat their work with utmost care ands responsibility, and the chance of mixing up a test tube was completely impossible.
After several months the Vityushkins had still received no details about the removal of Anatoly from the hospital waiting list, so decided to take the hospital to court. ‘‘Staff of the Soviet Hospital No.2 are guilty of causing a man to undergo a serious amount of stress by informing him he had a grave illness that, in fact, he never had’, said Olga. ‘They had no right to take his blood for an AIDS test without his prior agreement. The AIDS centre that put Anatoly on the waiting list for the first analysis did not even conduct further tests to see if he had the virus.
Yet justice concerning this question sided with the medical staff. In court a doctor from the AIDS centre testified that the Vityushkins had incorrectly understood the situation. Anatoly, he argued, was put on the waiting list not because he was a carrier of the HIV virus but as a patient suspected of having the virus. ‘This sounds similar to the expression ‘partly pregnant,’ retorted Olga. ‘In our case it was so easy to establish the truth. We intend to take this further.’
The head doctor Lyubov Potemina of the AIDS centre later remarked that all claims against the centre are groundless since all employees follow strict regulations stipulating that anyone testing positive after the first test for HIV must be placed on the waiting list.
‘However it is absolutely necessary to carry out a second analysis so that we can confirm or disprove the first. Our employees visited the Vityushkins in the hospital, and told them that the analysis was not a definitive result. They were then invited to the centre were Mr Vityushkin gave a blood sample and the analysis proved negative. We were very happy for him and took his name off the waiting list.