ACLU of Nebraska sent a letter to six Nebraska nursing homes Tuesday on behalf of a woman who said her father was rejected by them because he was living with HIV/AIDS.
Courtney Shelor, whose father John Shelor died on July 31, told the ACLU of Nebraska she approached six nursing homes near the family’s home in the Phelps County town of Bertrand. They each denied him admittance, she said.
The family finally was able to place John Shelor in the Golden Living Center in Broken Bow, which is 68 miles away.
That nursing home had not worked with a resident who was living with HIV before, but it was able to provide him with excellent care, Courtney Shelor said in a news release from ACLU of Nebraska.
“I saw my dad care for my mother and after she died when I was 13, he cared for me,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure he had the care that he gave to others."
She said she was shocked that so many facilities weren’t willing to take him after they learned he was living with HIV.
"The facilities took no time to understand his specific needs and treatment plan. My dad’s HIV was under control. It was his Alzheimer’s and dementia that were the pressing health needs,” Shelor said.
The places that rejected him had what she called excuses, including “our air system isn’t right,” in spite of the fact that HIV cannot be transmitted through the air. One place told her it would place him only in a single-bed room, and none was available, she said. Another suggested she drop him off at a hospital because the person didn’t think any facility would be willing to take him.
Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said the organization is grateful Shelor stepped forward to share a very personal story of how discrimination hurt her family.
“Nebraska and federal law is clear: Treating someone differently because of their HIV status is discrimination," Conrad said.
The ACLU works to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS are not denied the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of society because of stereotypes, prejudice or misinformation, and to ensure that HIV status is taken into account only when justified by a genuine medical necessity, she said.
Jordan Delmundo, executive director of Nebraska AIDS Project, said in the news release that his organization sees providers care for people living with HIV every day.
“There is no medical reason nursing facilities wouldn’t be able to provide proper care to most people living with HIV," he said. "What happened to Mr. Shelor isn’t a matter of health care needs. It is a matter of stigma and misunderstanding that led to discrimination."
Courtney Shelor said staff at the Golden Living Center treated her dad "like the amazing friend and father that I’ve known all my life."
"I’m so thankful that they took good care of him when no one else would.”
On Tuesday, ACLU of Nebraska sent out letters reminding nursing homes of state and federal laws and the potential actions that can result from discrimination. It asked for written assurance regarding how they intend to address the issues.
The letters went to Bethany Home in Minden, Christian Homes in Holdrege, Elwood Care Center, Good Samaritan Society in Wood River, Plum Creek Healthcare Community in Lexington and Prairie View Gardens in Kearney.
Each facility was contacted by the Journal Star, but most of the administrators who could respond were at a Nebraska nursing facility conference in La Vista.
Several people who answered the phone at the facilities said the accusations didn't seem to be accurate.
Bob Tank, administrator for Bethany Home in Minden, said the facility was just unable to meet John Shelor's needs at the time he was referred there.
Delmundo said Nebraska AIDS Project is ready and willing to work with nursing facilities in Nebraska to ensure no one else is denied necessary care because of this discrimination.