By Kim Se-jeong
Dozens of AIDS patients on the brink of death are struggling to find places to receive care after being told to leave the nation's only care center for dying AIDS patients, according to a rights activist.
According to HIV/AIDS Human Rights Nanuri, the patients were told to leave the care center, Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital, earlier this year because it was deprived of a license following alleged violations of human rights.
One patient was raped in 2011. In August of last year, a new patient died 13 days after arriving. The investigation found that the care center staff refused the patient's request for medical attention. Her death attracted media coverage which eventually led to the uncovering of years of human rights abuse.
According to Kwon Mi-ran, an activist for Nanuri, 15 have moved out so far, five to the National Medical Center in Seoul and 10 to the National Police Hospital in Seoul
"The rest are still there without knowing where to go," Kwon told The Korea Times during a telephone interview Wednesday.
The activist said the hospital does not allow her staff to visit the hospital, and that she doesn't know how long the patients can stay there and how they are being treated.
Finding an alternative is not easy for them because of prejudice shown by medical service providers.
Almost all medical centers in Korea, both public and private, have the capacity to see AIDS patients.
But, they do not like to accept them because they are concerned that having AIDS patients might scare other patients off. "Some hospitals that have received AIDS patients made them use separate toilets and showers," Kwon said.
She also sees false information spread among the medical staff.
"What we often hear is that hospitals don't have a segregated ward or room for them, but AIDS is not a contagious disease. You don't get sick by simply being with them."
According to Kwon, the whole situation shows negligence and unprofessionalism by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDCP) that is tasked with managing AIDS patients.
As of 2012, Korea had 7,331 registered AIDS patients. A KCDCP official said the center does not have statistics on how they are cared for and how many are close to death.
It has designated one residential care center, but Kwon said that is far from enough.
"My organizations often receive phone calls asking for help in finding long-term care centers," she said, arguing the KCDCP should provide more state-funded residential care centers or help them individually find places where they can receive care.
The activist also called for better management of residential care centers.
Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital has a record of abusing the rights of the patients since 2011, and has successfully covered up the problems until last year by threatening patients.