Almost half of the nation’s hospices are reluctant to accept terminal-stage cancer patients with HIV, due to lack of experience or facilities to treat them, a survey showed Thursday.
The survey was conducted in January and February by Hideaki Nagai, head of the terminal-care department at the National Hospital Organization’s Tokyo hospital.
Of the 139 terminal-care facilities across Japan, 98 responded to the survey. The results were presented at a meeting of the Japanese Society for Palliative Medicine in July.
Of the 98 hospices, 47 said they can accept HIV-positive cancer patients who have less than six months to live, while 43 said it was difficult. The remaining eight did not respond.
Seventeen hospices said they had received requests to accept such patients, but only five said they did.
The 12 facilities that rejected the requests cited lack of experience with HIV-positive patients.
The lives of HIV/AIDS patients can be prolonged if they receive treatment at an early stage, but most of those in Japanese hospices also have cancer.
Only 17 of the responding hospices said they had established standards for accepting patients with HIV. Forty said they would consider the matter in the future, and the rest expressed reluctance, citing reasons such as “We specialize in cancer.”
“HIV infection is spreading, and thus demand for hospitalization will most likely increase,” Nagai said. “It’s necessary to eliminate concern over treating people with HIV through such means as training staff, and establish a system for them to receive palliative care anywhere in Japan.” Nagai said.
There are more than 10,000 reported cases of people with AIDS or HIV in Japan, according to government statistics. The survey indicates that while there has been progress in medical treatment to prevent or stall the development of full-blown AIDS, Japanese society still lacks a system where such patients can spend their last days peacefully.
Katsumi Ohira, head of a group that supports people who contracted HIV through tainted blood products, said discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients was still rife in the medical community.
“There are not enough hospitals where such patients can receive long-term care, or hospices where they can wait for the end in peace,” Ohira said.
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