An HIV-positive woman who allegedly was denied access to a swimming pool in Pennsylvania has filed an antibias complaint in federal court.
“Bonnie Jones,” 40, an Iraq War veteran, allegedly was denied access to a pool at OSS Orthopaedic Hospital in York, Pa.
Jones would have benefited from use of the pool due to health challenges caused by wearing a bulletproof vest for an extended period of time while on active duty in Iraq.
The named defendants in her lawsuit are the hospital, Drayer Physical Therapy Institute and Timothy Burch.
The hospital performs orthopedic surgeries, and Drayer operates its physical-therapy program. Burch is a physical therapist affiliated with the hospital and/or Drayer.
In June 2015, Burch allegedly denied Jones access to the hospital’s therapeutic pool because Jones is HIV-positive. When denying access, Burch allegedly informed several onlookers of Jones’ HIV status.
“Because of your HIV/AIDS, you’re not allowed to go in the pool,” Burch allegedly told Jones within hearing distance of others. “It’s our policy.”
The lawsuit states: “Jones was embarrassed by Burch’s disclosure of her health status and offended at the discriminatory policy.”
Defendants allegedly violated state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the state’s HIV Confidentiality Act.
The suit demands that the hospital and Drayer stop all unlawful practices, develop antibias and privacy policies and conduct HIV training for all staff. The suit also seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages, and payment of Jones’ legal fees.
The suit was filed on behalf of Jones by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania. Ronda B. Goldfein, director of the law project, urged a “common-sense” approach to HIV/AIDS.
“Yet again, we see somebody in a health-care setting without a full understanding of how HIV is transmitted,” Goldfein said. “There’s never been a reported case of anyone getting HIV from a swimming pool. And I think we also need to have a little common sense about HIV transmission. You don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that if people got HIV in a swimming pool, we’d have a lot more cases.”
Goldfein said Jones continues to be affected by the incident.
“She’s really, really upset. But she’s living her life. She’s a tough woman, a combat veteran. And this has really been upsetting to her, partly because it was so unexpected.”
Attorneys Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen and Adrian M. Lowe also represent Jones.
Charles I. Artz, an attorney for Burch and Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, said his clients deny the allegations.
Kelley E. Kaufman, an attorney for the hospital, issued this statement: “OSS Orthopaedic Hospital denies the claims and will defend them in court.”
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane, and a bench trial has been requested.
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