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Los Angeles Times

Clinic Will Pay $85,000 in HIV Discrimination Suit


A Ventura medical clinic that refused treatment to a man infected with the AIDS virus agreed Tuesday to pay $85,000 to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Civil rights lawyers said the lawsuit, which was settled the day it was set to go to trial in federal court in Los Angeles, was the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit filed under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, who represented the man denied treatment, contend that the settlement delivers a warning to doctors across the nation.

"This sends an important message that AIDS discrimination is unlawful and won't be tolerated," said ACLU attorney Jon Davidson.

Salvador Fuentes filed the discrimination suit in March, 1992, a month after he was refused treatment at the Ventura Urgent Care Center for a laceration from a broken glass. He received the cut while washing dishes in his Ventura home.

Before he arrived at the clinic, Fuentes called for directions, informed clinic staff that he was HIV-positive and was told he could still receive care, the suit says.

But when he arrived, Dr. Thelma Reich told Fuentes that the clinic would not treat him for his wound, the suit said.

Fuentes demanded that Reich put her refusal in writing before he would leave. She wrote on the back of a prescription slip: "This is to inform you that I do not treat patients with HIV-positive in our clinic. Advised to go to County ER for treatment."

Reich, who no longer works at the clinic, admitted no wrongdoing in settling the suit.

"This is definitely not about discrimination," said James Castle, Reich's attorney. "She exercised her medical judgment that she was potentially at risk from his blood."



Copyright © 1993 -Los Angeles Times, Publisher. All rights reserved to Los Angeles Times Reproduced with permission. Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Los Angeles Times, Permissions, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

Information in this article was accurate in December 1, 1993. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.