Complaints of discrimination in the healthcare sector


Many people with HIV have experienced discrimination in connection with medical treatment or care.

Patients are often only given the last treatment appointment of the day due to alleged or actual hygiene regulations. Sometimes completely unnecessary measures are taken, such as wearing two pairs of gloves or disinfecting all surfaces in the room, including the floor. Some people are even refused treatment completely. You don't have to put up with this!

The graphic from the documentation of the Positive Voices 2.0 research project shows the negative experiences that people with HIV have had in the healthcare system. To emphasise just three figures: Over a third of people say that their medical records have been specially marked, more than one in five describe not being included in regular appointments and 10 per cent of people have even been denied a healthcare service.

What are unnecessary safety measures?

‘Special hygiene measures’ that some practices or hospitals apply to people with HIV do not meet generally recognised professional standards. The Robert Koch Institute (website only available in German) , for example, points this out. As a general rule, since the infection status of patients may be unknown, basic hygiene measures must be applied to all patients. It is completely unnecessary to treat HIV-positive patients only at off-peak times or in a separate room, to disinfect the entire room or to wear two pairs of gloves.

In the event of accidents at work, e.g. puncture wounds or cuts with contaminated instruments, there are regulations on immediate measures that medical staff can take to protect themselves in order to prevent infection. This may also include post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). 

You can find out which measures are appropriate and which are not in the brochure "Don’t be scared of HIV!" or "Don’t be scared of HIV, HBV and HCV!", which are available for treatment at the doctor's surgery, in hospital and at the dentist.

Your rights

Medical ethics demand that all patients are treated with the same respect and care. You must not be offered inferior care or denied treatment - unless it would be detrimental to your health. You have the right to have your doctors explain to you what is in your best interests and what is not, so that you can make a joint decision on this basis.

Strict data protection also applies: no one is allowed to inform third parties, such as insurance companies or your employer, about your HIV infection - unless you have given your consent. 

We have summarised the information on this in the brochure “Deine Rechte im Gesundheitswesen” (brochure only available in German).

What can you do?

If there is discrimination in the healthcare sector, you can address the discrimination directly - an accompanying person can be helpful here. You can also write a written complaint, e.g. to the practice owner(s), the medical management of the hospital or the care facility. 

Another option is to send a complaint to the State Medical Association or the State Dental Association. The letter should clearly state when the discrimination occurred, what it consisted of and who may have been present. We can support you with these steps.

In order for medical or nursing staff to be able to provide information to the Chamber, you must release them from their duty of confidentiality towards the Chamber. Following a complaint, the Chamber will obtain a statement from the doctor and check whether there has been a breach of the professional code of conduct. You will be informed of the result. 

If registered doctors and psychotherapists refuse to treat you, you can also lodge a complaint with the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in the respective federal state.

The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) also protects people from discrimination in the healthcare sector. It is important that claims under the AGG are made within two months. Further information is available from the local Aids service organisations (Aidshilfen) and the contact point. You can also report your case to the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, which offers support.

‘Complaints to medical associations are important. This informs them where care for people with HIV is not going well and how much further training is still needed.’ Kerstin Mörsch, Head of the HIV-related discrimination contact point at the DAH


  • The standard hygiene measures are completely sufficient when dealing with people with HIV.
  • Complaints to the State Medical Association or the Associations of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of the federal states must usually be submitted by post. Some chambers also offer complaint forms on their website.
  • Complaints about dentists should be submitted to the State Chamber of Dentists or the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Dentists.
  • Breaches of data protection and confidentiality can also be reported to the data protection authorities.  
  • Seek counselling and information about complaints and further legal steps.