No intention of setting up 'AIDS ward'

I REFER to your publication on October 20, of the article by Mr Andy Clark, headlined, 'AIDS ward used for private patients'. Although the article is factual and accurate in its contents, the headline is both misleading and inaccurate.

As I informed reporters on October 19, regarding our preparation for the foreseeable increasing number of HIV patients in the future, we have already planned for the need for isolation facilities in the years to come.

An isolation ward was therefore designed and equipped for these future needs. There is no intention of setting up an 'AIDS ward', as quoted, as it is against the current policy for treating AIDS patients. I would like to stress that hospitalised AIDS patients do not cause a threat of infection to other patients, and also pose no threat to the general public.

As most of the infections developing in AIDS patients are latent ones, and not acquired from hospitals, the international trend is to treat AIDS patients in ordinary wards together with clear guidelines for health care professionals and associated workers. Isolation facilities might be necessary only for special cases.

As Queen Elizabeth Hospital is the one which handles the majority of AIDS patients in Hong Kong, we have a supervisory medical team with six doctors, a specialist nurse and a team of medical nurses who are well acquainted with caring for AIDS patients in general wards. It is also our objective to equip all our professional and associated staff with the knowledge and skills for handling HIV patients. The planning of an isolation ward with a capacity of up to 16 beds is, therefore, in anticipation of future needs for isolation, and HIV patients are only part of this anticipated need.

It is obvious from recent media reports that there is still a gross misunderstanding of AIDS by the public, and HIV patients are being segregated unnecessarily in work, family and society. The Hong Kong community should try harder to educate the public to take a positive look at this global issue instead of avoiding it.