An Iraq War veteran in York County, Pa., has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was denied a type of physical therapy because she has HIV.
The 40-year-old woman, whose suit was filed under the pseudonym Bonnie Jones, said she sought help from OSS Orthopaedic Hospital in York for chronic spine pain and limited range of motion. She said the pain resulted from wearing a bulletproof vest for an extended period.
Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, which operates physical therapy services at the hospital, and Timothy Burch, a physical therapist, also were named in the suit, filed by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.
The suit claims that after Jones was evaluated at the hospital last June, Burch recommended aquatic therapy, which uses the buoyancy and other properties of water to enhance treatment. He then told her he needed to check her health status before she could go in the pool. He came back a few minutes later and told her, within earshot of others, "Because of your HIV/AIDS, you're not allowed to go in the pool. It's our policy."
Ronda Goldfein, executive director of the law project, said there was no reason to suspect that Jones, a Navy veteran, could transmit HIV while in the pool or that she would be in danger of catching other diseases there.
Goldfein said her client's biggest concern is to make sure that other HIV patients do not face similar discrimination. The suit asks that the defendants stop discriminatory practices and conduct mandatory HIV training for all staff. It also seeks unspecified compensatory damages for "humiliation and embarrassment."
Goldfein said that cases like this are "particularly distressing because we feel that folks in health care should know better."
Kimberly Colonna, a lawyer in Harrisburg who represents OSS, said that she had not seen the lawsuit, but that her client "denies the claims that are asserted and intends to defend them vigorously in court."
A lawyer for Drayer and Burch did not return a phone call Friday.