London’s G-A-Y Late nightclub, one of the UK’s most popular LGBT venues is receiving some criticism over am alleged situation that occurred there recently, in which a patron was publicly humiliated and denied entry for having antiretroviral medications.
The customer, who chooses to remain anonymous at this time, alleges that the door staff of G-A-Y Late questioned him about the antiretroviral pills he had in his bag audibly in front of other patrons. Ultimately, the young man says the situation caused him to have to publicly disclose his HIV-positive status in front of a crowd of strangers, after which he was still denied entry into the club.
“I told him it was HIV medication, told him the name of the medication,” the young man told BuzzFeed News. “I thought it was inappropriate. It’s quite humiliating. I was mortified — as a gay venue, that should have been the end of the conversation.” The young man says he has been questioned about his meds in other nightclubs and even in airports, but in those situations, he was quietly taken aside and it was easily resolved. “It’s the biggest gay venue, so they should know better,” he said.
Though the pills in question, Truvada and Efavirenz, are two of the most commonly prescribed antiretrovirals, many could argue that because the pills were not in a prescription bottle, the club staff had no way of knowing what they were and if they were legal or illicit drugs. It could also be argued whether it was necessary for the young man to bring the pills with him to the club (he says he takes them every evening at a scheduled time). But, if the young man’s allegations are true, this is more an issue of discretion than one of discrimination.
“Antiretroviral drugs are essential for people living with HIV,” Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, told BuzzFeed. “They need to be carefully adhered to and — as with any medical condition — people with HIV are perfectly entitled to have their medication on their person in any situation.”
“We would strongly encourage any venue where bags are searched to train staff to recognize these medicines,” added Gold. “We would also hope that any doubt could be handled sensitively without disclosing the HIV status of an individual to groups of strangers, something with the potential to cause a lot of unnecessary distress.”
Indeed, it does make sense that the door staff of one of the largest and most popular gay venues in the country should be trained on how to handle such situations, especially in regard to those living with HIV.
Another issue is that Truvada is also the medication used for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), the medication regime that prevents HIV. Although it can be taken once a day for use as PrEP, another method is to take it before and after sex, so it would make sense for someone to have it with them on a night out in the event of a sexual encounter. Also, because of its use as both PrEP and as antiretroviral therapy, it is well known in the gay community.
A spokesperson for the Terrence Higgins Trust (an advocacy group for those living with HIV) echoed Gold’s reaction in the BuzzFeed report. “Our service users tell us door staff typically either recognize HIV medication during a search, or discreetly ask what it is without issue,” said the spokesperson. “This is important because there will inevitably be times when someone has to bring their medicine with them on a night out, as treatment has to be taken at specific times of the day in order to be effective.”
“There is of course potential for things to go wrong, which can be very distressing for an individual, particularly if this involves having to disclose their HIV status in a public setting,” adds the spokesperson. “Thankfully these instances are rare, and highlight the importance of training so that all staff are able to handle situations sensitively and discreetly.”
The young man sent an email to G-A-Y Late explaining the incident and that he felt he was treated insensitively, but has yet to receive a response. The nightclub has not made any official statements regarding the incident.