THE HOTEL in Paphos which allegedly denied hospitality to a British HIV-positive tourist from the UK was within its rights to do so, the Cyprus Hotels Association (PASYXE) said yesterday.
It cited an archaic piece of legislation that allows hoteliers to deny service to anyone suffering from a contagious disease.
In a statement, PASYXE cites articles 55 and 49 of the Regulations on Hotels that stipulates among others that any hotel can deny service to a person “suffering from a contagious or other disease that may pose a danger to others”, though it did not say that was what had happened in this case.
PASYXE claims that the man wasn’t denied hospitality because of his condition but rather because he was “intoxicated and un-cooperative, endangering hotel employees and other residents”, also a stipulation in the same hotel regulations.
The legislation in question was drafted almost 50 years ago, in 1969, at least a decade prior to the advent of HIV/AIDS.
In response, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) chairman Angelos Loizou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he was moving to have the legislation amended in order to reflect today’s standards of hospitality, describing it as “obviously outdated”.
“This is probably legislation carried over from UK law when the island was granted independence in 1960. When they [hoteliers] brought me the legislation, it was obvious to me that it was written a long time ago. I have already given orders for the provisions to be amended or completely stricken out,” said the CTO head.
PASYXE in its announcement congratulated the hotel staff for providing the UK tourist with “the best service possible”, despite him “not disclosing his unique circumstances.”
But according to the head of the board of the HIV/AIDS Support Centre Stella Michaelidou, the man was denied service in several hotels in the Paphos district once news of his condition spread.
She said earlier in the week that a doctor from a private clinic who had treated the man for external wounds after a fall – and to whom the tourist had disclosed his condition – had alerted the hotel where he was staying. She told the Daily Mail a few days later that the doctor in question had told the hotel to burn the sheets and disinfect his room, though HIV/AIDS cannot be spread in this manner as the virus would not live long enough outside the human body for this to happen.
“He was in fear, in shock, and he was also feeling dizzy,” Michaelidou told the British tabloid.
“It’s like in the 80s before we knew what HIV was. It’s ignorance and we have to solve this… You may [expect to] find this ignorance in an ordinary person, but in a doctor?”
According to the newspaper, at some point, the tourist had lost his HIV medication. Michaelidou contacted the head of a specialised HIV clinic at Larnaca General Hospital, Dr Ioannis Demetriades, to help.
The public sector doctor got in touch with the British High Commission to get the correct prescription for the medication from the man’s doctors in England. The tour operator then collected the medication from the hospital in Larnaca and delivered it to the tourist in Paphos.
PASYXE called for a probe on the “real events surrounding the case”, going as far as “expressing our disappointment over the fact that the incident was reported in the media without proper investigation, presented without any supporting evidence and spiced up with insulting conclusions and characterisations.”
The Cyprus Mail initially contacted two high ranking PASYXE officials, one in Paphos, before publishing. Both said they had no knowledge of the case. At that point, both the health ministry and the Cyprus Medical Association had already – the day before in fact – said they were launching investigations.
The events took place at the beginning of the month. The tourist, while on holiday, was slightly injured when he felt dizzy and fell over, and was transferred to a private clinic by his travel agent. He duly informed the attending staff that he was HIV positive. But after he had his wounds tended to, a doctor, according to Michaelidou called the hotel and informed them of his condition.
His travel agent was trying to find him another hotel but with no success as word had spread, she said. In the end one establishment took him in and made sure he saw a doctor. He has since left the island.