July 8th, 2018

Surgeon Who Was Denied Disability Insurance for Taking PrEP Tells His Story

Earlier this year, urology resident Dr. Philip Cheng appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Here was the headline:

He Took a Drug to Prevent AIDS. Then He Couldn’t Get Disability Insurance.

The piece understandably drew widespread attention, with sharp disapproval of the denial from ID specialists and public health officials. We couldn’t understand why someone adopting the recommended strategy for HIV prevention was being penalized.

“It’s like refusing to insure someone because they use seatbelts,” said UCSF’s Bob Grant in the piece. I’ve heard others cite travel immunizations and malaria prevention as analogous prevention choices. The decision by the insurance company seemed like a textbook case of discriminatory behavior.

This may all seem obvious to most of us in the ID/HIV world, but rest assured this is still not a universal view — which is why it was incredibly brave of Dr. Cheng to come forward with this story. Think of what it took for him to do this!

In this Open Forum Infectious Diseases podcast, he tells us some more about himself and the events surrounding his decision.

Well worth the listen!

2 Responses to “Surgeon Who Was Denied Disability Insurance for Taking PrEP Tells His Story”

  1. Mark Drapkin says:

    What a principled and, indeed, brave young man. It’s bad enough when folks are denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. But the rank stupidity of doing so because a customer is taking measures to prevent illness is mind boggling. All the more power to you, Dr. Cheng.

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HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
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