Dan Coulston – Discrimination

“Doctors who would not touch a door handle.”

People weren’t stepping forward [in the 1980s]. There were a lot of problems with physicians in those days, of not wanting to take care of someone with HIV. It wasn’t so much the homosexuality [that they saw as a problem]—it was HIV and not knowing what was going on, what the risks were. It was pretty scary. There was a lot of teaching curve there, to get other physicians who were willing to, as they perceived [it], “put their life on the line” to take care of a patient. People didn’t really know for sure. I mean, you could read that maybe there isn’t a problem there. But it was kind of hard to believe everything you were reading at that time. You couldn’t really be sure. We had a group of physicians in most of the specialties [who would treat HIV/AIDS patients]. It didn’t bother them, and they stepped forward. There are a lot of physicians we wouldn’t [have] used because they had no desire to be involved.

There was still so much fear. And then there was so much disinformation occurring and coming out of a lot of places, including San Francisco. I mean, there was some notorious surgeons who were making claims that were totally unrealistic and false, but had a lot of people fearful in those days.

I ran into that with just total bullshit from other doctors spouting information that was obviously false, because [of] their own religious beliefs. One [physician] wouldn’t see HIV patients for fear of transmission. There were doctors, one particular, who would not touch a door handle in a public restroom for fear of catching something from someone else who has touched that handle. [This doctor] made a case of doing that, always had a handkerchief or glove or something like that to utilize. There were some doctors who tried to proselytize to a patient who we sent them to, unbeknownst to us. Who tried to make it as an unnatural act—against God—to be homosexual. Those things happened in the early years, but they’re rapidly weeded out. I mean, I had no problems speaking up, standing up for my patients, and telling the doctors what I thought, so . . . You just avoided them. You found people who didn’t have those beliefs.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 10 July 2013.